FILE – In this Friday March 20, 2020 file photo, a U.S Postal Service mail carrier wears gloves while delivering mail in South Wilkes-Barre, Pa. (Aimee Dilger/The Times Leader via AP)
UPDATED 12:28 PM PT — Saturday, April 4, 2020
The unofficial motto of the United States Postal Office is: “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night deters these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.”
However, the motto says nothing about working through a global pandemic. The USPS is facing two severe problems as the outbreak continues: a lack of funding and a lack of protective equipment for employees.
“Today, the Postal Service will deliver more than 450 million pieces of mail and 20 million packages to 159 million addresses,” stated Postmaster General Megan Brennan. “We serve every American home and business, and play a vital role in every American community.”
The recently passed $2 trillion stimulus package doesn’t give them any money to continue operating, it only allows them to borrow $10 billion more from the Treasury Department. According to officials, this may be a temporary fix, but will also add to the nearly $200 million in debt the post office has.
Despite people sending and receiving more packages during quarantine, the amount of regular mail sent, which makes up more than 57 percent of annual revenue, is dropping daily.
A United States Postal worker makes a delivery with gloves and a mask in Warren, Mich., Thursday, April 2, 2020. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
Additionally, the USPS is still working to deliver packages on behalf of other delivery services, like Amazon. In 2019, the Postal Service was responsible for 1/3 of all Amazon deliveries. It is crucial in delivering to rural areas, while still meeting the company’s strict one and two-day Prime delivery guarantees.
Meanwhile, employees continue to work as usual, despite facing dangerous conditions without personal protection equipment.
“I had a customer come up and, as he was talking to me, he spit in my face with his saliva. He was just talking and this was just the first customer to come into my counter. Then there was a second customer who came into my encounter and lifted his mask down. As he did that, as he was talking to me with his mother by his side, he coughed in my face a couple of times.” – Shannon Cooksey, postal worker
So far, 20 workers have tested positive, but many who may have been exposed cannot get tested.
“When I did reach the front of the line, …they told me that because my fever wasn’t that high, I couldn’t get a test today,” added Cooksey.
A postal service carrier dons gloves as he delivers mail in northeast Jackson, Miss., Monday, March 30, 2020. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
Should the Postal Service close due to bankruptcy or massive infection, the consequences would be severe. Last year, they shipped more than 1 billion prescriptions to patients across the country. That number is only expected to rise as people continue to get sick.
The Treasury Department is preparing to cut millions of stimulus checks in the coming weeks. Without emergency intervention to keep the Postal Service afloat, there could be no one to deliver them.