Students should care about the US Postal Service

Illustration by Christian Ayala

The United States Postal Service (USPS) is dangerously close to falling apart due to underfunding. Young voters need to be aware of this situation. The postal service is a vital part of our society and a national service that is required by law. 

In 2019, USPS reported a net loss of $8.8 billion, increased from the net loss of $4.9 billion the previous year. This is predominantly due to a decrease of mail volume.  The total of mail and packages delivered by USPS dropped by 3.8 billion pieces in the last year. The postal service also remains $11 billion dollars in debt. 

Since the creation of the USPS in 1971, citizens all over the nation have been getting their mail delivered in a professional and timely manner. The post office delivers social security checks, letters and most importantly, mail-in ballots. 

If the postal service does not receive proper funding, the repercussions on the U.S. will be devastating. The mail industry could become privatized by businesses looking to make profits rather than serve the people. The price to ship mail could become unregulated and would rise as a company chooses, impacting low-income citizens who cannot afford higher rates.  

Small businesses and rural areas are also dependent on the postal service. Delivering to rural areas all across the nation, including Native American reservations, is costly. Still, the post office ensures that no matter where the individual lives, they will get their mail for no additional cost. Private companies cannot say the same, and often outsource to the post office and pay it to go the extra mile.

A privatized postal service would deprive low-income households and rural communities of receiving their mail. Small businesses often do not have the means to pay the high fees charged by other delivery services and are dependent on the stable and reasonable prices of the USPS. 

A lack of funding means that this federal agency, which is inscribed into the Constitution in Article 1, Section 8, is struggling to survive and the security that it is known for is shaking. 

Since the COVID-19 pandemic has overtaken the nation, the postal service announced that on Oct. 18, it is planning to raise shipping costs until Dec. 27 due to an expected increase in online and holiday shopping. This change will “[provide] the agency with much needed revenue,” according to a public announcement from the USPS. If funding is not issued from Congress, these increases may just be the beginning of an uptick in fees.

With the presidential election in November and the pandemic still raging, states like California have announced that every citizen will receive a ballot through the mail. However, President Donald Trump tweeted against the validity of mail-in voting, worrying the general public about possible voter fraud.

Without the support of the president, the odds of USPS receiving additional funding before the presidential election are unlikely. Less funding means it is likely that ballots may not be sent or counted, possibly compromising the election’s integrity.

Just four days after the previous announcement from the USPS, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy released another statement saying, “The Postal Service is ready today to handle whatever volume of election mail it receives this fall.”

This announcement provided slight relief, but the future of this nationwide service remains unknown after the election. 

DeJoy accompanied his remarks with a response to the rising concern regarding the removal of mail-sorting machines and blue collection boxes across the country, “there are some long standing operational initiative — efforts that predate my arrival at the postal service — that have been raised as areas of concern as the nation prepares to hold an election in the midst of a devastating pandemic.” 

DeJoy appeared in front of the House of Representatives on Aug. 24 to testify regarding his position.

Showing support for the postal service is crucial and can have a significant impact on determining the future of the postal system. On the USPS website, there are a variety of items available for purchase that directly support the post office. These include, but are not limited to, stamps, tote bags, clothes and ornaments. Of course, sending a handwritten note in the mail is the simplest and most meaningful way to support the post office. 

Buying from small businesses such as creators on Etsy, or online shopping at small businesses that use the USPS are also great options to show support. 

Local representatives serve their constituents and are there to advocate on their behalf. Send emails or call your local representatives and urge them to vote in alliance with saving the future of the postal service. 

The USPS has traveled  across the nation for centuries delivering messages from person to person. The people must use their voice and power to take a stand and fight for the future of this indispensable service.