Postal Service Vows to Win Over Republicans Angry About Banking Pilot
Republican committee leaders say Louis DeJoy withheld information to keep the initiative secret.
The U.S. Postal Service is promising to win over its detractors after its decision to start offering limited financial services in select locations has garnered blowback from some key players.
The top Republicans on two key committees—Reps. James Comer, Ky., and Patrick McHenry, N.C., the ranking members of the Oversight and Reform and Financial Services committees, respectively—said in a recent letter to Postmaster General Louis DeJoy the pilot program was hidden from them and rolled out “in secret.” They noted they “strongly object to the concept of postal banking” and questioned whether DeJoy had the authority to launch the program unilaterally. The criticism marks a shift for DeJoy, who has frequently drawn the ire of congressional Democrats but generally won plaudits from Republicans.
USPS is so far testing the program at just four post offices on the East Coast. It has allowed individuals to deposit payroll or business checks of up to $500 onto a single-use debit card for a flat fee of $5.95. The offering is far short of the much more comprehensive suite of financial services many advocates and left-leaning lawmakers have sought for years, but still takes USPS in a surprising direction under DeJoy’s of rocky tenure.
McHenry and Comer, who helped negotiate and ultimately co-sponsored postal overhaul legislation that is awaiting a vote on the House floor, said DeJoy had undermined the trust he built during the legislative discussions. The pilot's “quiet launch” has now led the lawmakers to question whether the postmaster general worked with them in good faith, they said.
“During the lengthy negotiations, you never once raised the Postal Service’s intention to expand into banking services,” they wrote, adding his 10-year plan and previous congressional testimony similarly omitted any reference to the postal banking initiative.
The lawmakers noted previous USPS leadership rejected calls for banking services at post offices and said it was unclear why management now believes the agency is “ready for the added responsibility of offering expanded financial services.”
Tatiana Roy, a USPS spokesperson, declined to say why the agency failed to engage the House members before rolling out the pilot, but promised to brief them in the coming weeks.
“We believe once we have an opportunity to clarify both the limited nature and scope of the pilot program the concerns expressed will be allayed,” Roy said. A spokesman for Comer declined to comment on the response.
USPS worked with the American Postal Workers Union to stand up the initiative. The initial sites and services are meant to be a “proof-of-concept” test for the Postal Service, APWU officials said. The union is hopeful that USPS will expand the pilot in early 2022, both in terms of services offered and locations where they are available.
The easiest areas for expansion would be to allow for gift cards for checks of more than $500. Thousands of post offices already offer Visa gift cards, and management concluded there would be few legal hurdles to simply accepting another form of payment for them. The cards USPS currently has in stock are capped at $500, hence the current maximum. Management is looking to both raise the cap on those and allow for the bundling of multiple cards. Other services in discussion are a bill pay product, making the cards branded to the Postal Service and reloadable, and wire transfers from one post office to another. USPS has expressed an openness to setting up its own ATMs, though that may require additional statutory authority and is therefore only expected much further down the road. USPS offered banking services for more than 50 years, but stopped in 1967.