Government affairs

Legislative Updates

Third stimulus package signed into law

Following Senate passage of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act (H.R. 748) in a 96-0 vote on Wednesday, the House took the legislation up today and cleared the emergency legislative package via voice vote. It then proceeded to the President’s desk and has since signed it into law.

The massive $2.2 trillion response to coronavirus pandemic will provide aid and support to our nation’s healthcare system and hospitals, individuals, businesses, and industries harmed by the fallout from the virus; expand unemployment insurance; provide one-time cash payments of up to $1,200 per adult and $500 per child; among many other provisions.

Unfortunately for letter carriers and the U.S. Postal Service, the package will raise the agency’s borrowing authority from the U.S. Treasury by $10 billion. This will raise the Postal Service’s liquidity for now, but also its indebtedness. Along with that comes terms and conditions that are guaranteed to not be helpful to our employer or us. This “relief” is not nearly enough. As President Rolando noted: “Congress will have no choice but to revisit relief of the Postal Service soon. The Covid-19 crisis is both a public health crisis and an economic crisis – and the U.S. Postal Service is a vitally important tool for combatting these twin calamities.” 

NALC leadership lobbied the House, Senate, and Administration extensively in the lead up to the bill’s passage through both chambers of Congress to ensure the Postal Service and its workforce are protected from the public health and economic fallout from the virus. NALC maintains that more steps are necessary to protect letter carriers, other postal employees, and the Postal Service from collapse due to the potential fallout from this virus. To that end, NALC urged the inclusion of appropriations into the agency to stave off a potential collapse, a raise in its borrowing authority with the U.S. Treasury, and once again a repeal of the burdensome Congressional mandate to pre-fund retiree health benefits decades in advance in emergency legislative packages.

A 4th emergency package is already expected and likely to focus on recovery efforts from this pandemic. Speaker Pelosi laid out Congressional Democrats’ priorities to Treasury Secretary Mnuchin and the public, which include: better protections for health care workers, a rescue of at-risk multi-employer pension funds, a clearer definition of family and medical leave qualifications, a 15 percent increase of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, more funding for state and local governments, increased directed payments to individuals throughout the crisis, free testing and treatment for coronavirus, and equitable funding for the District of Columbia as it had been deprived from the negotiated Senate package as it is deemed a “territory” of the United States instead of a “state.”

When that 4th package is set to be introduced is unclear at this time, but the House of Representatives will remain in session through March 31. Following Senate passage of the 3rd package, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) cleared the chamber for recess through April 20, though he noted that Senators could be back in DC within 24-hours’ notice.

As the sudden shutdown of major parts of the U.S. economy is dramatically reducing mail volume and revenue for the Postal Service, NALC and allies will continue to lobby for stronger language to protect USPS and the postal workforce and that the next package must provide direct financial assistance to the Postal Service like that being offered to airlines and hotel chains, include the repeal of the retiree health prefunding mandate adopted by the House of Representatives in February (H.R. 2382), and to forgive the USPS’s outstanding debt, which is largely due to the mandate. Although the Postal Service has not received taxpayer appropriations (other than tiny ones for military voting and free mail for the blind) since the early 1980s, the present crisis certainly warrants such appropriations now.

NALC will continue to monitor activity from Congress and the Administration to keep letter carriers updated on the latest developments.

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