Biden Promises Cash Infusion, End of Prefunding Mandate for USPS
Former vice president says he would never privatize the Postal Service.
Former Vice President Joe Biden vowed to work with Congress to boost funding for the U.S. Postal Service if he is elected president and to eliminate its longstanding requirement to prefund health care benefits for future retirees.
The Democratic nominee for president condemned President Trump’s handling of postal issues, saying his opponent “attacked” USPS and flirted with privatizing the mailing agency. Biden said efforts to damage the Postal Service would stop under his administration, as he would push for reforms to put the cash-strapped agency on a firmer financial footing.
A Biden administration would also advocate a slowing down of rate increases at USPS, the candidate told the National Association of Postal Supervisors in a response to a survey it sent to the presidential nominees. The Trump campaign did not respond to the survey. Biden’s ability to influence policy on postal operations would be limited, as those decisions are made by its board of governors or dictated by Congress. The president does appoint members to that board, however, and Biden said he would “enhance” USPS with “ethical” leadership by filling current vacancies. The board lost its quorum in 2014 during the Obama administration, and that persisted until 2019.
Biden criticized Trump for blocking emergency appropriations for USPS in light of revenue it lost from the novel coronavirus pandemic, a reference to the White House pushing back on such spending during negotiations in the run up to the passage of the The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act earlier this year. The law instead allowed the Treasury Department to give USPS a loan of $10 billion. Biden said he would supply USPS with “emergency relief so it has the resources to continue serving the American people.”
Since 2006, USPS has faced a requirement to pay billions of dollars annually into an account to be used for the benefits of future retirees. The Obama and Trump administrations, Democrats and Republicans in Congress, postal unions and stakeholders have all called the mandate an unfair burden. Despite bipartisan legislative efforts to rework prefunding and USPS for years failing to make its required payments, it has remained in place and on the books for the agency’s debts. Biden pledged to revoke the requirement to “protect the long-term financial health of the Postal Service.”
The USPS workforce is highly unionized, and Biden said he would make it easier for employees to join a union and for the groups to engage in collective bargaining over pay and benefits. A Biden administration would look to boost USPS revenue by diversifying the services it can offer, another proposal with recent bipartisan support. The former vice president vowed to never privatize the Postal Service, which Trump has previously proposed doing. He noted that as a senator, he cosponsored a bill that would have prohibited USPS from hiring contractors for mail delivery.
Biden vowed to “honor and defend” USPS’ universal service obligation—to deliver to every address in the country—without specifying how he would define it. He said USPS should continue to deliver six days per week, something for which current Postmaster General Louis DeJoy has also advocated. During the Obama administration, postal management suggested eliminating Saturday mail delivery but Congress ultimately blocked that proposal from going into effect.
Trump has consistently railed against the Postal Service and called for it to dramatically raise its rates. He commissioned a task force to evaluate how to stop the bleeding for an agency that has lost money for more than a decade, but those proposals have largely gone ignored. DeJoy has come under fire for both his reform initiatives and his personal connection to Trump, having raised millions of dollars for the president and the Republican Party. DeJoy’s operational efforts have largely been put on hold by federal judges after a series of lawsuits resulted in court-issued injunctions in the run up to the election.