This story first appeared in Newsday.
Sen. Chuck Schumer stood Wednesday in front of the U.S. post office’s hub in Melville to make an appeal to Congress for billions in funding to the Postal Service.
Schumer (D-N.Y.) said that “hundreds or even thousands” of Long Island’s 7,651 postal workers across 200 facilities could lose their jobs and that postal services may be reduced if the money is not made available. The Melville facility is one of the service’s largest processing and distribution centers, he said.
“These are crucial times during COVID; we need mail more than ever,” Schumer said. “Older people can’t go to drugstores, they need their medicines delivered. People who have special conditions need to stay home and they need the mail to deliver certain necessities, so it’s vital, vital, vital that the post office keep moving.”
The Postal Service has struggled financially for more than a decade after Congress passed a law in 2006 requiring the agency to prefund billions in pension and retirement health care benefits. Many of these employees will not retire for decades.
Since the pandemic, the Postal Service has been crippled by a plunge in revenue, particularly with a decrease in the mailing of catalogs, which is one of its “big, lucrative money makers,” Schumer said. The agency has also endured increased costs for personal protective equipment and a loss of workers due to the virus, he said.
The Postal Service reported last week that it had a net loss for the third quarter of $2.2 billion.
The previous postmaster general, Megan Brennan, told lawmakers in April that the agency predicted a $13 billion revenue loss for the year directly tied to COVID-19. According to the U.S. Government Accountability Office, the Postal Service’s overall financial condition is “deteriorating and unsustainable” and the agency lost $69 billion from 2007 to 2018.
Talks in Congress are currently stalled on a deal for a new coronavirus stimulus package, called “COVID-4” or “Phase 4,” that would include $25 billion — $10 billion for now and $15 billion over the next few years — for the Postal Service.
Schumer on Wednesday called Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, whom he said he recently spoke with in a private meeting, a “political appointee” who “wants to slash and burn” and is opposed to the funding. DeJoy unveiled plans last week for an overhaul of the Postal Service that includes reassigning or displacing 23 postal executives.
“This ultimately comes down to respect,” Peter Furgiuele, president of the American Postal Workers Union Local 3251, said about the funding. “Our members have shown up day in and day out since this crisis started. . . we’re part of the fabric that holds this great nation together.”
Another issue looms large with possible Postal Service interruptions: the November election, in which mail-in ballots are expected to be heavily used.
“The last thing we need is people to think the elections weren’t on the level and weren’t fair,” Schumer said. “We are demanding . . . that the Senate and the House put the $10 billion needed this year so people can get their medicines, people can get their supplies and so that our elections are secure.”