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Rep. Richard Neal calls mail delivery ‘essential service’, calls on Congress to pass emergency funding for US Postal Service

May 21, 2020
In The News

SPRINGFIELD - The men and women of the U.S. Postal Service have never ceased delivering mail under trying circumstances, and for that reason U.S. Rep. Richard E. Neal stopped in Springfield to deliver his support for them.

Neal, speaking in front of the city’s main post office branch at Main and Liberty streets, said the U.S. Postal Service is an essential service and needs to be treated like one.

He said that while much of the country is shut down from the pandemic, he finds comfort in seeing letter carriers making their rounds each day.

“I can’t emphasize enough the role that the Postal Service plays every single day as a service that we all depend on,” he said.

“The best example I always use is one that we all know of the most difficult days. Their footprints in the snow is a reminder of how seriously they treat their responsibilities.”

Neal, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, met with a dozen retired postal employees in front of the Main Street post office branch Thursday morning.

He spoke of his support for the HEROES Act, a $3 trillion coronavirus relief package approved last week by the House that includes $25 billion in relief for the troubled Postal Service.

The Postal Service was in difficult financial straits for years, but the COVID-19 crisis has pushed it over the edge.

A drop in business as fallout from the coronavirus shutdowns has cost the agency billions in revenue, and there have been estimates that without help, it will run out of money as soon as October.

The bill must now be approved by the Senate and then be ratified by President Donald Trump to become law.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has spoken out against postal service funding in the House Bill, calling it, as Neal said, a “non-starter.”

And President Trump has been and remains a frequent critic of the Postal Service, saying it’s budget shortfalls are the result of its failure to charge more money to Amazon and other internet-based merchants for package deliveries.

Neal said he is hopeful the House leadership can work with McConnell to negotiate a compromise that would provide aid.

“Everyone acknowledges the problem even if we have a temporary disagreement on the solutions," he said.

As for Trump, Neal said “The idea that, once again, because one person tends not to like Amazon (and) tends not to like the Washington Post and uses that as the linchpin of the argument that the Postal Service needs to be charging more for products does not stand up under the magnifying glass.”

The Postal Service’s funding shortfall is not due to mismanagement or declining mail volume, Neal said, as much as it is the result of 2006 legislation that required it to finance in advance retiree benefits and pensions for the next 75 years.

“That doesn’t happen anywhere else in the public or private sector. So that has really been the culprit,” he said.

Neal said the Postal Service is not a massive, faceless bureaucracy, as much as it is thousands of ordinary men and women, many of whom are veterans, who make up the community.

“I’ve known the men in the women in the Postal Service my whole life,” he said.

In addition to delivering mail, letter carriers know and watch out for the people on their routes, he said. “They know who was sick and who is elderly. They know when mail sits for 2-3 days it’s likely they should inform someone.”

Michael Powers, retired U.S. Postal Service district manager for Massachusetts, said the postal service has been an American institution for some 230 years and serves to connect everyone with anyone else around the world.

During the pandemic when businesses are closing and people are sheltering in their houses, postal employees go to work each day to get the mail delivered.

“That our employees today are putting their concerns (and) their affairs aside to ensure that connection remains a credit to them all, and it speaks to what the Postal Service is all about,” he said.

Kathy Mannix of Wilbraham, a retired manager, said she appreciated Neal’s support, calling mail delivery both vital and essential.

The post office delivers mail to the most rural areas of the country where private delivery companies will not go, she said.

She said letter carriers are “the public face of the postal service,” but there are thousands of other employees who work in distribution centers and post offices across the country who have continued to work to keep the mail moving during the pandemic.