The U.S. Postal Service will go out of business without an immediate infusion of funds, according to Sen. Chuck Schumer, who vowed to include $25 billion for the agency in the COVID-4 recovery bill that will be negotiated when Congress returns to Washington on Monday.
Schumer (D-N.Y.) said keeping the Postal Service functional will provide citizens the opportunity to vote by mail during November’s election despite the coronavirus pandemic that has killed nearly 140,000 Americans.
“If we don’t have a Postal Service, how can we vote by mail?” the Senate minority leader asked Sunday during a news conference outside a post office in Manhattan. “How can we have a fair election?”
Democrats and activists fear Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, a major donor to President Donald Trump who has proposed cost-cutting measures to make the agency solvent, will try to hamper vote by mail. Trump has said vote by mail will lead to widespread fraud, although voting rights advocates say that allegation is greatly overblown and that Trump is trying to suppress the vote.
Those cost-cutting measures could greatly delay the delivery of mail, which could mean some ballots would reach election officials too late to be counted. More than 18,000 ballots were not counted in the Florida primary because they arrived after the state’s deadline.
“I think he doesn’t want a fair and free election,” Schumer said.
Schumer and other Senate Democrats sent a letter to DeJoy last week asking him to explain how the agency will handle the influx of millions of ballots this fall.
Jonathan Smith of the American Postal Workers Union, which represents 200,000 employees, echoed Schumer’s fears. Preserving the postal system, he said during Sunday’s news conference, “is the best way we have to invoke our constitutional right in November.”
Schumer said the Postal Service is the only delivery service that brings packages and mail to every one of America’s 160 million home, business and post office box addresses. He called it a lifeline for many in rural communities.
The Postal Service had struggled financially after Congress passed a law in 2006 requiring the agency to prefund retiree benefits for employees who will not actually retire for decades. The business shutdown caused by the coronavirus pandemic has slashed the agency’s revenue, while the cost of personal protective equipment and deep cleaning of facilities has placed a heavy burden on its budget.
About 12,000 of the Postal Service’s 600,000 employees have been infected with the virus, it said.