EDITORIAL: Congress must act to preserve the Postal Service

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Categories: Editorial, Opinion

Trust.

It’s the fundamental element that supports our democratic institutions.

Trust is especially important when it comes to protecting one of our most basic rights — our right to vote.

Society’s sudden reliance on absentee ballots due to the coronavirus placed a new burden of trust on the U.S. Postal Service for which it wasn’t fully prepared.

In recent years, demand for postal services has declined with the growth of internet sales and private package delivery.

But the Postal Service is still essential for delivering medicines, government benefits checks and other vital deliveries.

It’s clear from the popularity of absentee ballots that the Postal Service will also now play a major role in future elections.

Here in New York, which this year quickly expanded its reliance on absentee ballots in school elections and the political primaries and general election, the need for an efficient and effective Postal Service is more crucial than ever.

To make sure it can fulfill its current and expanded mission, our representatives in Congress need to solve its financial problems and administrative lapses.

On Wednesday, a federal judge ripped Postal Service officials for their failure to deliver a number of absentee ballots in presidential swing states and for failing to complete a scan for any remaining mail-in ballots in its processing facilities.

That’s just the latest in a series of lapses in the delivery of absentee ballots.

To remedy that, Congress must pass HR8015, the “Delivering for America Act.” The bill, which passed the House of Representatives in August but has not been acted upon by the Senate, would prohibit the Postal Service from implementing or approving any changes to current operations or service levels that would “impede prompt, reliable, and efficient service.”

The bill is designed to prevent partisan politics from being used to manipulate the Postal Service into actions that would impede the fast and complete processing of absentee ballots, such as taking sorting machines out of service and removing public mailboxes.

In addition to more oversight, Congress needs to provide essential funding to ensure the long-term financial stability of the Postal Service. The Postal Service has lost more than $78 billion in recent years, including $8.8 billion in 2019. It also has more than $150 billion in unfunded liabilities and debt.

Congress should allow the Postal Service to enact reasonable efficiencies that won’t undercut its ability to process ballots, as well as to expand its ability to set its own pricing and to compete more effectively in the global packaging industry.

America needs a functioning and efficient Postal Service more than ever.

Congress must ensure its survival.

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