As a longtime postal employee, I’m working through the coronavirus period.
It’s not the first time I’ve worked through a scare like this. I still remember those frightening days after 9/11, when terrorists put anthrax in the mail. Back then, many brave postal workers died or had their lives forever changed for the worse.
Many more postal workers are suffering from the COVID-19 outbreak. At least 60 of us have died so far from the virus. But we are continuing to do our jobs because we know how important our work is — not just to deliver everyday needs like medicine, but also to protect our country’s economic stability. If the Postal Service shuts down, I believe the stock market would collapse in less than a week.
This is a real possibility because our mail revenue is plummeting as a result of the crisis. The postmaster general has warned that we’ll run out of money before the end of September if Congress doesn’t approve a major cash infusion for the Postal Service soon.
The House recently passed a bill that would provide $25 billion in emergency relief for USPS, but this effort is stalled in the Senate.
A postal bankruptcy would be especially bad for a state like West Virginia, where more than half the population lives in rural areas.
The Postal Service has a universal service mandate, meaning we deliver mail and packages to every address, whether you live in a city or on top of a mountain. We can afford to serve rural residents at affordable rates because we shift profits from services that make more money to cover the cost of those mountaintop deliveries. The private carriers charge considerably more for high-cost routes.
Nearly 30% of West Virginians lack broadband internet service. These folks especially rely on the Postal Service for paying bills and to stay connected to the rest of the world, especially during the pandemic.
And then there are the jobs.
The Postal Service employs more than 3,700 people in West Virginia with decent pay and benefits, and it’s one of the country’s largest employers of veterans. An Institute for Policy Studies report found that even before the crisis destroyed so many jobs, there were more postal workers in our state than child care workers, police officers, medical assistants or bank tellers.
Our Founding Fathers realized the importance of the Postal Service in building our economy and the importance of it being under government control so it serves everyone. This is why the Postal Service was, and is, the only business ever listed as part of our U.S. Constitution.
I pray all postal workers stay safe. But I know there will be many more brave postal workers giving their lives to keep the American economy moving. In these tough times, we need our political leaders to step up and provide the Postal Service, part of America’s lifeblood, the financial support we need so we can keep doing our job.