At the height of the 2008-2009 recession, more than 800,000 Americans per month lost their jobs. Last week alone more than three million did so. The Covid-19 crisis is both a public health crisis and an economic crisis. The U.S. Postal Service is a vitally important tool for combatting these twin calamities.
In ordinary times, the Postal Service plays an important role in our economy and our health care system. It handles 1.2 billion prescription drug shipments a year – that’s nearly 4 million each and every day, six days a week. It also delivers hundreds of millions of lab tests and medical supply shipments — from blood testing strips and insulin needles to contact lenses. In a major public health crisis like the one we face today, the Postal Service is even more important. This week the CDC is sending a mailing to every American household to give our citizens the information they need to protect themselves and their loved ones from the Covid-19 virus. The FDA is working on a self-testing nasal swab that must, once available, be efficiently delivered to 159 million delivery points across America. There is no substitute for the Postal Service’s universal delivery network.
The USPS and the mailing industry it supports ($1.7 trillion in sales and 7.3 million private sector workers) is every bit as important as the aviation industry, which is to receive $61 billion in financial aid, and other sectors that will be aided by the pending stimulus legislation. The Postal Service, which had already been weakened for more than a decade by an unfair statutory mandate to prefund future retiree health benefits, is facing the same kind of economic shock facing the airline industry – postal revenues that last year exceeded $70 billion may easily be cut in half, almost overnight. Mail volume has already plunged by the largest percentage since the Great Recession and is likely to drop by more than it did during the Great Depression of the 1930s — the USPS believes it may drop by 50% or more this year.