House panel warns coronavirus could destroy Postal Service by June

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The U.S. Postal Service could be gone by June unless Congress immediately delivers billions of dollars to counteract the impact of the coronavirus crisis, a House committee chairwoman warned Monday night.

"Based on a number of briefings and warnings this week about a critical fall-off in mail across the country, it has become clear that the Postal Service will not survive the summer without immediate help from Congress and the White House," said Oversight Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) in a statement.

Maloney, who was joined in the statement by Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), indicated that the Postal service has seen a "drastic" reduction in mail volume and could shutter by the summer without intervention, a collapse that could, among other things, jeopardize access to mail-order prescription drugs for millions of Americans, especially in rural communities.

A Postal Service shutdown would also affect the ability of voters to cast ballots by mail.

Maloney and Connolly noted that the House's $2.5 trillion coronavirus relief package would send $25 billion to the Postal Service in emergency funding and eliminate the Postal Service's $11 billion debt. The measure would reset the Postal Service's borrowing limit to $15 billion and eliminate an annual $3 billion borrowing cap. The measure would also require the agency to prioritize medical deliveries.

The House bill would also allow the Postal Service to create "temporary delivery points" and establish flexible staffing procedures if the coronavirus impacts its operations.

The Postal Reorganization Act of 1970 turned the Postal Service into an independent agency within the U.S. government that was primarily responsible for funding itself, something that has become harder since the internet era led to a dramatic drop in the volume of mail. Beyond that, the Postal Service has been required since 2006 to pay at least $5.5 billion annually to pre-fund retiree benefits.

David Cohen contributed to this article.

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