Government affairs

Legislative Updates

Bill introduced to provide emergency appropriations to USPS

On March 31, Rep. Joe Neguse (D-CO) introduced the “Protect Our Post Offices Act” (H.R. 6425), which would provide $25 billion in emergency funding to the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) from the U.S. Treasury. The appropriations would be a one-time payment to assist USPS while it struggles from the lost revenue caused by the coronavirus pandemic and the government responses to it.

The language is similar to that of the Take Responsibility for Workers and Family Act (H.R.6379), introduced by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and House Committee on Appropriations Chairwoman Nita Lowey (D-NY) as part of negotiations around the third stimulus package. Both bills would provide $25 billion in appropriations, though the Speaker’s bill also called for the elimination of the agency’s current $11 billion debt to the Treasury; resetting the Postal Service’s borrowing authority to $15 billion with an elimination of the current $3 billion limit on new debt; and a provision to prioritize the delivery of medical items and to make other operation adjustments in response to the Coronavirus crisis.

Rep. Neguse’s provision differed from that of the Speaker’s as it states that the funding “shall be available only if the President subsequently so designates such amount and transmits such designation to the Congress.”

This condition appears to suggest that the funding would only be made available if the President deems it necessary. If so, that could mean the legislation is inherently ineffectual as it became clear from the negotiations around the third stimulus that primary obstacle to the Postal Service’s financial relief was the Administration’s negotiating team, led by Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin.

Mnuchin flatly rejected a $13 billion emergency appropriation to USPS, despite that number being agreed to by both Senate Leaders Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Chuck Schumer (D-NY). At the end of the negotiations, the Administration agreed to provide a $10 billion special line of credit to help USPS deal with the Covid-19 crisis. This raises the Postal Service’s liquidity, but also its indebtedness.

If the allocation of $25 billion in emergency funding for USPS in Rep. Neguse’s legislation is dependent on the Administration’s discretion, regardless of the bill’s level of support in Congress, then the “Protect Our Post Offices Act” is effectively useless as the Administration has demonstrated it cannot be relied on to protect our nation’s most treasured institution.

Unfortunately, this bill does not address the immediate and long-term needs of the Postal Service as outlined by NALC in its recent white paper, viewable here. NALC encourages letter carriers to engage with Congressional leadership on the requests outlined in that document and not on the “Protect Our Post Offices Act” (H.R. 6425).

NALC will continue to monitor all legislation related to the Postal Service to keep letter carriers well informed.

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