U.S. Postal Service leaders have been warning about its increasing financial woes, before and during the pandemic, and concerns are intensifying over how a system collapse would affect rural communities.
For the estimated one in four Ohioans who lives in a rural area, National Rural Letter Carriers Association president Ronnie Stutts said the mail service is more than just getting bills and junk mail. He said many seniors in these communities receive their prescription drugs through the mail, a service that especially will be important as the pandemic plays out.
"When there is any kind of a medication or, if you will, a vaccine for this," he said, "there's a good probability that the United States Postal Service will be making those deliveries."
Stutts and others advocating for the Postal Service want President Donald Trump to authorize an emergency $10 billion loan that was earmarked by Congress under the federal stimulus bill. Last week, Trump said he won't release the money until the Postal Service raises its prices. Trump and some Republicans have questioned the sustainability of the agency, and have at times called for it to be privatized.
Stutts said mail volume is down 50 percent since the crisis began. While parcel demand is up, he said, it doesn't make up for all the mail not being sent out for delivery. He added that if the Postal Service were to collapse, rural customers would have to rely on private shipping companies that don't have as much infrastructure in smaller communities.
"You might get delivery out in rural America," he said, "but it's gonna cost you a lot more money to service those areas than what you get today because the Postal Service already has that network in place."
Even if the president authorizes the $10 billion loan on the table, Stutts said, it might only allow the agency to survive about another year before another rescue might be needed. That's why he says comprehensive reform is needed to keep the Postal Service around for the long term.