While the US Postal Service fights for its life financially, 2,000 of its workers are in quarantine and dozens have tested positive for the coronavirus
The United States Postal Service isn't doing well, both financially and in terms of employees' exposure to the novel coronavirus. Fifty-one USPS employees had tested positive for COVID-19 as of Wednesday, and 2,000 of its roughly 500,000 employees are in quarantine. Financially, lawmakers warned this week that plummeting mail volumes could force the USPS to shut down by June without immediate financial help. The USPS is included in the $2 trillion stimulus bill that President Donald Trump signed on Friday, but the city carriers' union called the $10 billion provision for the service "woefully inadequate." Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.
The US Postal Service is in crisis, with lawmakers warning that plunging mail volumes could shut it down entirely by June without "urgent" financial help — threatening everything from critical medicine deliveries and vote by mail to a third of Amazon orders. But the crisis is far more than financial. The National Association of Letter Carriers, the union representing USPS city carriers, said 51 USPS employees had tested positive for COVID-19 as of Wednesday. On top of that, nearly 2,000 were in quarantine. "As the number of confirmed positive coronavirus cases have increased throughout the general public, so too have been the number of postal employees who have tested positive," a statement from the union's president, Fredric Rolando, read. "About half of the postal employees are quarantined by order of public health officials and half have chosen to self-quarantine." The union announced the coronavirus-related death of New York City carrier Rakkhon Kim, who was 50, on Thursday. About 150 employees have returned from quarantine, the statement said. "Eligible" workers ordered to quarantine by health officials are being paid administrative leave during the quarantine period, while those who choose to quarantine themselves must take sick leave. "Employees who do not feel safe working in the facility may be allowed to take emergency annual leave or leave without pay, to the extent feasible," the statement quoted the USPS as saying. "The Postal Service will follow a liberal leave usage policy for employees." As of this writing, there have been more than 576,000 confirmed coronavirus cases and 26,400 deaths worldwide. On Thursday, the US passed Italy and China for most confirmed cases in the world. The USPS recorded having just under 497,000 employees in 2019 compared to the 2,000 currently in quarantine, meaning numbers are relatively low. But the numbers worldwide don't accurately reflect the exact number of cases due to limited testing, nor do they immediately convey the infectiousness of the disease — which has a snowball effect that one expert broke down, explaining how one person could end up infecting 59,000. Postal employees, like others considered essential — arguably, in some cases — are also still at work, handling packages and touching surfaces where the coronavirus can live for up to several days. The USPS, the union said, has agreed to certain provisions during the pandemic, including: providing daily supplies for employees to clean office items and vehicles; providing hand sanitizer and other cleaning supplies for postal carriers; and providing masks and protective gloves for any employee who requests them. "We have received almost 3,000 reports from all over the country regarding these issues," the union statement said. "In some places, all of these things are being done. However, in too many places they are not. "In the places where there are not enough supplies, or none at all, it is generally due to the overall shortage of these items throughout the country. USPS has been working to acquire more items, even authorizing local managers to purchase them if they could be found." Carriers are also being advised to knock instead of ringing doorbells, keep a safe distance from others, and use an alternative method for signed deliveries — all while the USPS itself fights to stay alive. Two US representatives warned this week that the USPS could shut down in three months without financial help, introducing a bill that would give the service $25 billion in emergency funding, eliminate its current debt, and require it to prioritize medical deliveries. The union said Friday that Congress must provide "at least $25 billion" to the USPS "to both protect the public health and to stabilize our economy," but the $2 trillion stimulus bill signed by President Donald Trump on Friday includes only $10 billion to the Postal Service. The bill passed in the Senate with the language that the USPS could prioritize medical deliveries, and that "if the Postal Service determines that, due to the COVID-19 emergency, the Postal Service will not be able to fund operating expenses without borrowing money," the USPS would be allowed to borrow up to $10 billion from the Treasury "to be used for such operating expenses" and "which may not be used to pay any outstanding debt of the Postal Service." The USPS lost $3.9 billion in fiscal year 2018, according to a report from the Task Force on the United States Postal System, and lost $62.4 billion between fiscal years 2007 and 2016. The report said that as the service's financial condition "continues to deteriorate," it's expected to "lose tens of billions of dollars over the next decade" — if it makes it that far. The union called the $10 billion in the stimulus package "woefully inadequate," considering that the USPS' services "are needed more than ever." "Right now we are delivering notices for the decennial census, CDC pamphlets for households, and a large volume of e-commerce products at a time when retail options are limited," a statement said. "Soon we will likely handle the distribution of Treasury stimulus checks, home virus testing kits and a surge of absentee ballots later this year. "In view [of] the Postal Service's crucial role, it is all the more disappointing and discouraging that the $2 trillion stimulus legislation that is about to be adopted did so little to help."Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: Here's why in-flight WiFi is so slow and expensive
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The US Postal Service wants to charge higher fees for domestic shipping, The Wall Street Journal...The US Postal Service wants to charge higher fees for domestic shipping, The Wall Street Journal reported Friday. The changes would go into effect from October 8 and end on December 27, according to the report. The move is meant to help offset increased costs incurred during the pandemic and ahead of the busy holiday shopping season. Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories. The US Postal Service says it plans to charge higher fees for domestic shipping ahead of the holiday season to help offset increased costs incurred during the pandemic and for the upcoming holiday shopping season, The Wall Street Journal reported. A USPS spokesperson told The Journal it will be the first time the agency will have established surcharges during the holiday season. The fees would go into effect on October 8 and end December 27, according to the report, and would range from 24 cents to $1.50 on some USPS package services, but won't apply to regular mail or international shipments. It's not immediately clear whether businesses will pass the higher fees on to customers by charging higher prices for shipping. An Amazon spokesperson told Business Insider that the company won't be providing comment on how they plan to handle the surcharges. Other shipping companies like FedEx and UPS have already implemented higher surcharges in recent months, The Journal reported. The US Postal Service is a government agency funded by the revenue it earns from stamps and other products and services, not taxpayer dollars. The agency reported losing $2.2 billion in the second quarter of this year. Business Insider previously reported, that the agency saw an accelerated reduction in first-class mail volume, which added to financial trouble that stemmed from 2006 legislation that required the postal service to fund 75 years of employee pensions and health benefits in advance. The postal service currently has $160 billion in debt due to those obligations, The Washington Post reported. President Donald Trump has also opposed measures to help USPS. The Washington Post reported in April that Trump said he would not sign the CARES Act stimulus package into law if it included a bailout for the postal service. Trump's position toward the postal service is seen as an overall attempt to hamstring the agency ahead of the November presidential election.SEE ALSO: What you need to know about US Postal Service's funding crisis, and how it could impact your vote in the November election Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: Inside London during COVID-19 lockdown
Trump walks back his previous suggestions that he would block a stimulus bill that included emergency funding to the US Postal Service
President Donald Trump walked back an apparent threat he levied on Thursday morning to reject a...President Donald Trump walked back an apparent threat he levied on Thursday morning to reject a hypothetical COVID-19 relief package that included $25 billion in emergency grants for the US Postal Service. At a briefing, CNN asked Trump whether comments he made to Fox Business, saying that withholding funding from the USPS would prevent "universal mail-in voting," meant he would reject future USPS funding. "No, not at all," Trump said, then falsely claiming, "But one of the reasons the post office needs that much money is they have all these millions of ballots coming in from nowhere." They would be coming from registered voters in the US. Trump described the fight over USPS funding as "a small part of a big negotiation" around the next stimulus bill, saying, "if the bill isn't going to get done, it means the post office isn't going to get funded." Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories. President Donald Trump walked back an apparent threat he levied on Thursday morning — to reject a hypothetical COVID-19 relief package that included $25 billion in emergency grants for the US Postal Service — in an evening press briefing at the White House. Throughout the pandemic, Trump has rejected giving emergency funds or grants to the cash-strapped USPS, which does not take taxpayer money and has seen a major revenue shortfall from the decline in mail volume caused by the pandemic. In a Thursday morning interview with Fox Business' Maria Bartiromo, Trump suggested that he would reject emergency funding for the post office over his opposition to mail voting in a possible next COVID-19 relief bill. In addition to criticizing the US Postal Service, Trump has spread false and exaggerated claims that voting by mail is inherently fraudulent. In reality, rates of fraud are extremely low, and there's no evidence that expanding voting by mail hurts or benefits either political party. "They want $25 billion — billion — for the post office. Now they need that money in order to have the post office work so it can take all of these millions and millions of ballots," Trump told Bartiromo, referring to a bill passed by House Democrats in May that would have given the USPS $25 billion in grants and $3.6 billion to states in election assistance. "Now, in the meantime, they aren't getting there. By the way, those are just two items. But if they don't get those two items, that means you can't have universal mail-in voting ... because they're not equipped," Trump added. But Trump slightly changed his tune in a Thursday evening press briefing with reporters, significantly scaling back his apparent threat to reject any bill with additional USPS funding and saying instead that if Congress can't come to a deal to approve another At the briefing, CNN's Kaitlan Collins directly asked Trump if he would expressly veto any coronavirus relief bill that included funding for the Postal Service. "No, not at all," Trump responded. "But one of the reasons the post office needs that much money is they have all these millions of ballots coming in from nowhere and nobody knows from where and where they're going." In addition to repeating a misleading claim that ballots simply come out nowhere (many states use ballot tracking systems and require signatures on envelopes for returned ballots, among other things), Trump's claim that the postal service is in dire financial straights because of the uptick in mail voting is also false. Even with states scaling up and expanding the availability of mail voting, ballots and election mail ultimately make up a very small percentage of the mail they process. The US Postal Service also processes other essential mail and medications. As Amber McReynolds, the former director of the Denver Elections Division and the CEO of the National Vote At Home Institute, told Insider in April, the USPS processed over 140 billion pieces of mail in 2019, meaning that even if a ballot were sent to all of the approximately 250 million voting-age Americans, it would only make up 0.2% of the Postal Service's total volume. Trump described the fight over USPS funding as "a small part of a big negotiation" around the next stimulus bill, saying, "if the bill isn't going to get done, it means the post office isn't going to get funded, the $3.5 billion isn't going to get taken care of, so I don't know how you could possibly use these mail-in ballots." States have, even with minimal outside help from the federal government, have been expanding the availability and ease of voting by mail in the pandemic. The CARES Act passed in March gave $400 million in election assistance to grants, which fell far short of the $4 billion experts at the Brennan Center for Justice said was necessary for the federal government to provide for states both to expand mail voting and provide for safe in-person voting as well. The HEROES Act, if passed by the Senate and signed by Trump, would have given out $3.6 billion in election assistance to states and required that states expand voter registration opportunities and in-person early voting, mandate that states allow citizens to vote by mail without an excuse and with pre-paid postage, and require states to send out ballots to all or most registered voters in emergencies. When Collins pushed Trump to explain his comments from Thursday morning, he said, "what I'm against is doing something where the people aren't taken care of. And the people aren't being taken care of properly. We want the people to get money, it wasn't their fault that they got shut down," describing USPS funding and election assistance as "two points within a big deal."Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: How 'white savior' films like 'The Help' and 'Green Book' hurt Hollywood
The president says he opposes providing additional money to the postal service to help it deliver...The president says he opposes providing additional money to the postal service to help it deliver mail-in ballotsDonald Trump admitted on Thursday he opposed additional funding for the United States Postal Service (USPS) in order to make it more difficult to deliver mail-in ballots.Trump’s comments lend evidence for critics who say the president is deliberately trying to hamstring the USPS in advance of the November elections to help his re-election bid. Continue reading...