WHYY.org: Philly congressional reps call for increased Postal Service funding

Philadelphia’s three representatives in the U.S. House gathered Wednesday at Madison War Memorial Park in Old City to call for emergency funds for the U.S. Postal Service.

Democrats Brendan Boyle, Dwight Evans, and Mary Gay Scanlon were joined by City Commissioners Lisa Deeley and Omar Sabir and postal workers’ union members to demand immediate federal funding to address the recent nationwide struggles experienced by the Postal Service. (City Commissioner Al Schmidt did not attend.)

Philadelphia and surrounding counties are reporting significant delays in mail delivery. And some people report going three weeks and longer without getting their mail.

Boyle, who represents the Northeast and parts of North Philadelphia on Capitol Hill, said the postal service needs an infusion of federal funding now more than ever, to handle the anticipated surge in mail-in votes in November.

“We, of course, expect hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians, if not over a million, will want to utilize vote by mail come this November. So literally, the integrity of our democracy is at stake with this issue,” Boyle said. “You cannot have vote by mail if you don’t have a postal service.”

Rep. Dwight Evans, whose district encompasses Center City, West, and Northwest Philadelphia, said the reason for the lack of post office funding is that President Donald Trump doesn’t want people to vote.

“It’s very strange to have the occupant of the White House trying to rig an election,” Evans said. “There will be an election on Nov. 3. [Trump] will not rig this election. This is our democracy. It is not [Trump’s] democracy.”

He urged voters to begin mailing in their ballots on Sept. 16, to make sure they don’t get lost in the anticipated influx of ballots flowing through the mail.

Joe Rodgers is president of the union that represents post office workers in the Philadelphia area, National Association of Letter Carriers Keystone Branch 157. He said that although the postal service hasn’t needed taxpayer support in decades, it requires it now in the form of bailout money.

“We need your help and assistance,” Rodgers said. “[Mail carriers] are risking their lives and the lives of their families on a daily basis, not knowing for sure if they’re going to bring home a deadly virus … the Postal Service simply will not survive without the passing of this necessary and vital legislation.”

Rep. Scanlon, whose district includes a portion of South Philadelphia in addition to Delaware County, said the Postal Service and its workers have been at the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic.

“It is truly astonishing that we’re here fighting against an administration that is trying to undermine the U.S. Postal Service. I mean, what have we come to?” she said. “They have been providing a lifeline to our most vulnerable communities … Every day, our postal workers deliver money, medicine, and mail-in ballots to people across this country. That’s even more important in a pandemic, when it’s most dangerous for folks with preexisting conditions, or those over a certain age, to be out in public.”

Scanlon has reported a large backup of mail in her district, which she attributes to understaffing because of Postal Service budget cuts.

Last week, Boyle, Scanlon, Evans and other U.S. House members sent a letter to a bipartisan group of congressional leaders, urging financial support for the Postal Service in any upcoming COVID-19 relief bills.

Senate Republicans did not include any Postal Service funding in their $1 trillion COVID relief proposal.

Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, appointed by Trump in May, has been trimming costs by cutting out overtime intended to reduce late deliveries.

“The only way that the Postal Service can continue to provide prompt, reliable, and affordable universal postal services for all Americans over the long term is by vigorously focusing on the efficiency of our operations,” he said in a statement Monday. “Given our current situation, it is critical that the Postal Service take a fresh look at our operations and make necessary adjustments.”

DeJoy, a major GOP/Trump donor, has called on Congress and the Postal Regulatory Commission to enact legislative and regulatory reforms to help address the situation.

Rep. Boyle said funding the Postal Service is a no-brainer.

“Common sense, enabling people to vote in the middle of a pandemic that has killed more than 150,000 Americans, and that is projected to kill scores more,” Boyle said. “My God, why do we even have to do this? Why do we have to sit here and fight for our funding?”

This article was updated to clarify that City Commissioner Al Schmidt did not attend the Wednesday event.