Up FrontHow is the U.S. Postal service governed and also funded?Tyler Powell and David WesselWednesday, respectable 26, 2020
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David Wessel

Director - The Hutchins center on Fiscal and also Monetary Policy

Senior other - economic Studies


The United states Postal service (USPS) is big. The employs end 600,000; only two personal employers (Amazon and Walmart) employ much more people. It serves 160 million homes, businesses, and also other shipment points. It would have ranked number 44 top top the 2019 happiness 500 if it to be included. The COVID-19 pandemic has actually severely intimidated demand and also revenue for USPS, straining its already fragile finances. As the financial was standing of the Postal business makes headlines, we examine just how it is collection up, what financial difficulties it faces, and also how the is managing these obstacles during a worldwide pandemic.

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How is the Postal company governed?

The second Continental congress appointed Benjamin Franklin together the first Postmaster basic in 1775. The article Office room was created in 1792 and also became a Cabinet department in 1872. In 1971, Congress changed the Department through the United states Postal Service, an independent entity within the executive branch. USPS is activate by a 11-person plank of Governors (which each other the plank of director of a publicly corporation)—the Postmaster General, his deputy (currently vacant), and nine governors appointed through the President and also approved through the Senate for seven-year terms. All six of the present independent governors were appointed by chairman Trump; three slots are empty. The plank appoints the Postmaster General, that acts as the CEO.

A separate Postal regulatory Commission with five members appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate oversees the USPS, including the rates it charges.

How is the Postal service financed?

The Postal service receives no straight taxpayer funds. It relies on earnings from stamps and other company fees. Return COVID-19 has actually choked turn off the USPS revenue in current months, factors that occurred well before coronavirus have added to the unsustainability of the Postal Service’s financial instance for years.

What room the long-term problems with exactly how the Postal service is financed?

The an essential problem is the while the USPS generates sufficient revenue come cover its operating costs, that pension and also retiree health treatment liabilities press its bottom line into the red. The USPS has actually operated in ~ a loss due to the fact that 2007. From 2008 come 2018, it reported $69 exchange rate in losses. Because that the 2019 fiscal year, it lost $8.8 exchange rate on $71.1 billion of operating revenue.

Because of the climb of email and also digital communication, USPS has seen the volume the First-Class Mail decline from a top of 103.5 billion pieces in 2000 to simply shy the 55 billion piece in 2019. USPS has tried to boost the delivery of marketing mail and also has make the efforts to compete with UPS and also FedEx in the parcel distribution sector, including by forging a delivery resolve Amazon. (This has actually provoked criticism from president Trump.) as of 2017, the USPS hosted a industry share of over 19 percent in U.S. Package delivery. By law, the Postal service has an duty to provide universal service—that is, to deliver mail to “as practically as practicable the entire population of the united States.” This pressures USPS to provide to an ext addresses every year, also as fewer pieces of mail are being delivered.

As First-Class mail volumes have actually declined, the USPS has actually been reducing the number of blue mailboxes because that years. It right now has 140,837 of them, down from 164,099 in 2013.

What is the concern with USPS retiree health benefits?

Beyond work challenges, the other drag ~ above the finances that the USPS is the Postal business Retiree health and wellness Benefits Fund. Like countless employers, the Postal company provides pensions for its retirement employees—and the is required, as exclusive companies are, to collection aside money from existing income to cover that is pension promises.

In addition, USPS provides health services to the retirees, together other federal government employers—but no all big private employers—do. Unlike other employers, though, the USPS is forced by the Postal Accountability and Enhancement act (PAEA) of 2006 come pre-fund retire health prices out of present income. The distinctive drag ~ above the Postal organization comes from this congressional requirement.

In 2002, the Office of Personnel Management uncovered that the Postal service had been significantly over-paying right into its pension fund, leave it v cash past what was necessary to satisfy its employee retirement liabilities. Merged with solid performance in the early on 2000s, this unforeseen windfall positioned USPS to catch up top top the pre-funding that its retirement health benefit obligations after years of a “pay-as-you-go” strategy before the i of PAEA. In that law, congress instructed USPS come contribute about $5.6 billion per year indigenous 2007 to 2016 and to stretch any added obligations over the nearly 40 years from 2017 to 2056.

Shortly ~ the requirements were passed, the economic climate sank right into the an excellent Recession and digital compete intensified, driving under revenues. As a result, USPS has missed $42.6 billion of compelled payments ~ above its wellness benefits because 2010 and also $5.6 billion in compelled contributions come its pension setup since 2014.

What strains has the COVID-19 pandemic put on the finances the the Postal Service?

Provisions of an individual protective devices to employees, a diminish in the capacity to use air transport for deliveries, raised paid sick leave, and also low customer demand have all added to surging costs and also declining revenues. Parcel shipping profits in the 2nd quarter surged by 53.6 percent end the 2nd quarter the 2019, which kept the USPS net loss to $2.2 billion because that the quarter compared to a lose of $2.3 billion a year earlier. Increases in volume because that packages room not expected to consist of for continued weakness in marketing mail volume (down 37.2 percent, year end year) and First-Class mail volume (down 6.4 percent) together the pandemic continues.

What has Congress excellent to support the Postal Service?

In the care Act, Congress provided a $10 exchange rate emergency loan to the USPS. The loan is sufficient to cover instant cash requirements for the Postal Service, according to the agency’s 2020Q3 budget Report. The problems that the Treasury imposed on the loan led the angry chairman that the USPS board, David Williams, a previous USPS inspector general, to resign, alleging that the Treasury needs threatened to turn the firm into a “political tool.”

The loan postpones, quite than solves, the USPS looming liquidity crisis. The home of representatives passed a invoice on respectable 22 to provide $25 billion in additional government funding to the Postal Service. In addition, the bill—which is unlikely to happen the Senate—mandates that the USPS need to reverse any type of policy transforms that have actually led come delays in mail delivery and also refrain native any brand-new policies that would minimize its mail delivery performance until the finish of the COVID-19 public wellness emergency.

What steps has Postmaster general Louis DeJoy taken because taking office in June 2020?

In April 2018, president Trump produced the Task force on the United claims Postal Service, chaired through Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin. The task Force developed a report in December 2018, urging cost-cutting and price increases. The brand-new York time reported that Mnuchin to be unusually associated in the Postmaster general recruitment process, through Postal service Board Chairman Robert M. Duncan, a previous chairman of the Republican nationwide Committee, arguing Louis DeJoy, who has actually a lift in the logistics business.

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Cost-cutting initiatives at the USPS were currently underway once DeJoy was sworn in together Postmaster basic in June 2020. However, linked with president Trump’s comment questioning the defense of mail-in voting, alters to Postal company operation—some that which to be in train prior to DeJoy’s appointment—have been particularly controversial. Internal memos outline new policies to prevent late departures and also extra shipment trips, even if it means that “we may see mail left behind or mail on the workroom floor or docks.”

In respectable 2020 testimony to the house Committee on Oversight and Reform, DeJoy said he didn’t explicitly order the techniques that have created criticism: “First, ns did not direct the removal of blue arsenal boxes or the removal of mail handling equipment. Second, i did not direct the cut ago on hrs at any type of of our short article offices. Finally, ns did not straight the removed or any cutback in overtime.” Nevertheless, on august 18, DeJoy cursed to suspending his permanent reform initiatives until after the November election. The promised the there would be no transforms to Postal organization retail hours, that arsenal boxes and processing equipment will continue to be where they space (though no commitment was made come return boxes and equipment currently removed), and also that overtime hours would be granted come employees as necessary.