After years of revenue losses and widely criticized mail delays, President Joe Biden signed a bill into law Wednesday that will combat the U.S. Postal Service’s ailing financial condition and add accountability for the agency to deliver mail on time, following landslide bipartisan votes on the bill in the House and Senate even as USPS has become increasingly politicized under Postmaster General Louis DeJoy.
Cars drive past a mailbox on August 17, 2020 in Morristown, New Jersey.
Biden signed the Postal Service Reform Act in a White House ceremony after it passed the House and Senate in February and March, respectively, garnering significant bipartisan support in both chambers.
The law will restructure the investment USPS makes in retired employee health plans and add Medicare requirements, which combined are projected to save USPS more than $50 billion over 10 years, according to lawmakers behind the legislation.
This will help “preserve the ability of the Post Office to exist,” bill sponsor and House Oversight Committee chair Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) told Forbes in February.
DeJoy has also repeatedly pointed to its poor financial condition to justify making changes—including those in 2020 blamed for widespread mail delays.
The legislation mandates that USPS deliver mail six days a week, meaning it can’t cut service in the future, and establishes an online dashboard with weekly updates on the on-time delivery rate for everywhere in the U.S., increasing transparency so that people can easily see if mail is delayed in their area and by how much.
That could help lawmakers recognize issues in their districts and hold USPS accountable for improving service, said Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.) during a committee hearing before the bill passed the House, noting that if mail delivery is “bad…this will allow us to be able to fix that.”
$4.9 billion. That’s how much money the USPS lost in 2021, the agency reported in November, though that’s down from a net loss of $9.2 billion in 2020. The agency’s financial issues are blamed on a variety of factors beyond how much mail is actually delivered—its present structure for retirement health benefits being chief among them.
“Today, we enshrine in law our recognition that the Postal Service is fundamental—to our economy, to our democracy, to our health and the very sense of who we are as a nation,” Biden said Wednesday before signing the bill. “This bill recognizes that the Postal Service is a public service, and we’re ensuring that it can continue to serve all Americans for generations to come.”
Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) prevented the bill from quickly proceeding to a vote in mid-February in the Senate, citing concerns with how the bill would affect Medicare funds, and continued to oppose it before the chamber passed it in March. “This bill doesn’t reduce costs, it just shifts them,” Scott claimed, saying that while he supports USPS reform, it “cannot come at the expense of federal taxpayers.” The bill is estimated to save the federal government $1.5 billion over 10 years, and proponents have said it will not increase how much taxpayers pay for Medicare, though Scott said he had concerns about its unclear financial impact past 2031.
The USPS law was enacted six months after DeJoy’s 10-year business plan for the agency went into effect, which includes measures that slows the delivery of some mail and have been heavily criticized by Democrats. This law actually includes language that supports DeJoy’s decision to stop transporting mail by airplane, which has made some mail delivery slower. Passing the legislation in concert with DeJoy’s plan was necessary for Republicans to back it, Comer said during a House Rules Committee hearing before the bill passed the House.
The law also lets the USPS work with state and local governments to provide nonpostal services to Americans, which Maloney suggested could include things like obtaining hunting, fishing and drivers licenses. It would also help rural newspapers through reduced mailing fees.
Congress has been trying for years to get rid of a regulation requiring USPS to pre-fund retiree health benefits, which it first established in 2006 but has been a major contributor to the agency’s years of financial issues. The legislation passed the House February 8 in a landslide 342-92 bipartisan vote, and made it to a Senate vote in March after getting briefly held up due to a clerical error when it was sent over from the House and Scott’s objections. It went on to pass the Senate in a bipartisan 79-19 vote, garnering widespread Republican support even beyond the 14 GOP lawmakers who co-sponsored the bill. The law marks a rare recent point of bipartisan agreement regarding USPS, which has become increasingly politicized under DeJoy. A longtime GOP fundraiser and Trump ally, DeJoy has sparked Democrats’ ire since he took control of the agency in summer 2020 and imposed changes that slowed down mail ahead of the presidential election, when mail-in ballots became a huge issue. House Democrats have repeatedly held hearings to question DeJoy and passed legislation in 2020 that took direct aim at his actions, which died in the Senate.
Here’s How One GOP Senator Is Blocking The Senate From Passing A Bipartisan Postal Service Bill This Week (Forbes)
The House Finally Plans to Vote on Postal Reform Next Week (Government Executive)
Your USPS Mail Might Be Slower Starting Today — Here’s What To Know (Forbes)
Senators reach bipartisan deal to overhaul USPS finances, tighten accountability requirements (Washington Post)