Postal workers wear masks and gloves as they sort mail at the U.S. Postal Service processing and distribution center on April 30 in Oakland, Calif.

Postal workers wear masks and gloves as they sort mail at the U.S. Postal Service processing and distribution center on April 30 in Oakland, Calif. Ben Margot / AP

Americans Support Postal Service Bailout, Polls Show

Trump has said he would oppose any effort to provide financial assistance to the cash-strapped agency.

Americans overwhelmingly support a congressional appropriation for the U.S. Postal Service as the cash-strapped mailing agency continues to struggle amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, according to two polls released this week.  

In one survey, 92% of American voters said they supported financial relief for USPS as part of the next coronavirus relief bill. In another, two-thirds of respondents said Congress should directly appropriate funds to the Postal Service, while just 15% rejected the idea. Both surveys were commissioned by postal unions but carried out by nonpartisan pollsters. 

The Postal Service has stressed the dire need for assistance, asking Congress for $75 billion through various means to avoid running out of cash by Sept 30. The agency said it will lose $13 billion in fiscal 2020 due to the economic downturn resulting from the ongoing pandemic. President Trump has voiced his opposition to the request, saying USPS should instead raise its rates to generate more revenue.  

In a poll commissioned by the National Association of Letter Carriers, 78% of respondents said they would prefer direct financial aid for USPS, compared to 28% who preferred a rate increase. Asked to choose between a cash injection and a loan, 70% opted for the direct appropriation. The survey showed little separation by political affiliation: 96% of Democrats supported financial support for the Postal Service, compared to 90% of Republicans. 

A survey commissioned by the American Postal Workers Union found 67% of Americans approve of Congress including the Postal Service in “the list of companies and organizations that receive financial support in the next federal stimulus,” while 15% oppose it. That survey did find a sizable partisan gap, with 86% of Democrats expressing support for a cash injection compared to 48% of Republicans. About half of respondents said they would be less likely to vote for their House or Senate representatives if the Postal Service goes bankrupt by the end of the summer and those lawmakers voted against providing financial support, compared to just 13% who would be more likely to vote for them. 

House Democrats pushed for a $25 billion appropriation for USPS in the last stimulus package, but lawmakers ultimately approved only a $10 billion line of credit through the U.S. Treasury. USPS is currently in talks with the Trump administration over access to that loan, with Trump instructing Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin to place conditions on it related to postal rate increases. The Postal Service’s board of governors, whose five Senate-confirmed members were all appointed by Trump, issued the request for $75 billion from Congress. 

The president has repeated a debunked claim that USPS is improperly taking a loss on its deliveries for large-scale shippers like Amazon. He has also criticized the “independent boards” that govern USPS rates, referring to the agency’s board of governors and the independent Postal Regulatory Commission. The Postal Service has sought more autonomy in setting its rates, though PRC has mandated that some caps remain in place. Other stakeholders have cautioned that raising prices too dramatically will disincentivize large-scale mailers from using the Postal Service and encourage ecommerce giants like Amazon to expedite the development of their own delivery networks.

Many stakeholders, in addition to employee unions and lawmakers, have pushed for Congress to approve new funding for the Postal Service. The Coalition for a 21st Century Postal Service, which represents more than 1,200 businesses and organizations, sent a letter this week to congressional leadership imploring lawmakers to approve such an appropriation. 

“The American people have been reminded during this pandemic of just how fundamental to American life the Postal Service still is,” it wrote, noting USPS is delivering many of the items meant to provide relief and protection during the crisis. “While substantial sums are needed, they amount to a small part of the emergency funds Congress has provided and will continue to provide, including to sustain small businesses, their employees and the economy. The Postal Service is the backbone of businesses large and small in America, and must endure.”

The Package Coalition, a group of small and large businesses that rely heavily on the mail, said Trump’s demands endangered the Postal Service and its customers. 

“President Trump’s threat to impose a package tax forcing the Postal Service to arbitrarily quadruple costs for package delivery will only raise prices for consumers, raise prices for small businesses and raise prices for rural communities,” said the group’s chairman, former Army Secretary John McHugh. “Now, when Americans need affordable and reliable package delivery service more than ever, Congress must fight to guarantee emergency relief for the Postal Service and stop this package tax.”

The fight to provide assistance to the Postal Service has become a rallying cry for many Democrats and liberal groups, with prominent figures such as presumptive Democratic presidential nominee and former Vice President Joe Biden and his former opponent, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., blasting out messages to supporters seeking to draw attention to the mailing agency’s cause. Aside from Trump’s complaints, opponents of financial support have noted the agency’s financial woes long predate the current crisis and the assistance will do little to put the agency on firmer footing in the long term without more significant reforms. 

The NALC poll was conducted by Hart Research Associates and North Star Opinion Research. It surveyed 804 registered voters nationwide between April 10 and April 12 and has a margin of error of plus-or-minus 3.5%. The APWU poll was conducted by YouGov between April 21 and April 22. It surveyed 1,269 adults and has a margin of error of 2.75%.