Postal workers in Illinois are among those calling for swift action by Congress to save the U.S. Postal Service. Jackie Engelhart, president of Northwest Illinois Area Local (NWIAL) 194 of the American Postal Workers Union (APWU), says postal workers have been crucial in serving the public during the COVID-19 crisis — delivering absentee ballots, medical supplies and other necessities to people sheltering in place. However, she explains, mail volume is down 50%, which could have a major impact on revenues.
“The only thing that’s really continuing to come in is mainly the parcels, so the post office is caught in between a double whammy, as far as a loss of volume and increased expenses for dealing with keeping the employees safe,” she points out.
The APWU is calling on Congress to provide one-time funding of at least $25 billion to cover immediate revenue loss, as well as ongoing support for the duration of the crisis. The Postal Service has been left out of federal COVID-19 financial relief, while private corporate and other business interests have received almost $1 trillion in assistance. By some estimates, the Postal Service could run out of money by the end of summer. Engelhart says should the Post Service collapse, rural customers would have to rely on private shipping companies that don’t have as much infrastructure in smaller communities.
“Right now, the Postal Service is obviously mandated to serve every mailbox in the United States,” she states. “But what would happen if there was no post office, and that mandate went away? I have no idea. There probably isn’t much of a plan, except to sell the profitable part.”
President Donald Trump and some Republicans have questioned the sustainability of the Postal Service, and have at times called for it to be privatized. The most recent census data estimates there are roughly 30,000 U.S. Postal Service employees in Illinois.