Schumer demands postal service funding
During a Rochester visit, the senator warns the postal service will crash without emergency funds
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ROCHESTER — Postal customers will face increasing delays in delivery of packages and mail unless the Trump administration agrees to emergency funding for the U.S. Postal Service, U.S. Sen. Charles J. Schumer said during a stop in Rochester Thursday.
"We’re here to make a case for the administration that they have to meet in the middle and negotiate on pandemic relief for the USPS," Schumer said, speaking at a podium set up across North Winton Road from the Brighton Station post office.
Schumer, New York's senior Democratic senator and the Senate's minority leader, noted that President Trump has said that "he doesn't want to fund the post office at all."
"His goal may be to try to mess up the election or to cast doubt on the result. But he's holding hostage the senior citizens who need their medicine and people with pre-existing conditions who can’t go shopping and need to get things by mail — and holding up the elections themselves," Schumer said after the news conference.
Schumer said that 2,200 U.S. Postal Service jobs in the Rochester area are in jeopardy because of post office financial woes.
As well, he said consumers will face worsening declines in service, driven by lack of funds and new policies to cut spending and let delivery times lag.
Congressional Democrats have proposed $25 billion in emergency aid for the U.S. Postal Service. Like many enterprises, the post office has suffered significant revenue drops during the coronavirus pandemic.
But Republicans, led by Trump, have refused to agree to emergency aid. The president has said the Democrats' demand for post-office relief is a major reason that congressional and White House leaders have been unable to agree a new pandemic relief bill.
On Thursday, the president said in an interview on Fox Business that the lack of funding will make it impossible for the postal service to deliver an expected surge of mail-in ballots in the November election, a prospect he seemed to welcome.
Many critics have accused the president of withholding money from the post office to sabotage universal mail-in balloting, which Trump believes will benefit his presumptive November opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden, and other Democrats.
Trump insisted again on Thursday that mail-in ballots, which millions of Americans use each year, provide an opportunity for massive fraud. No evidence has emerged of such fraud.
Schumer said Thursday that voting by mail is an essential service for people who are unable to go to the polls, or concerned about contracting the coronavirus.
He said he remains optimistic that a relief bill, including money to help the postal service, will emerge in the coming days. He believes pressure from citizens concerned about the fate of the post office will help drive a deal.
The senator said he met last week with newly installed Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, who he believes has been "sent (by Trump) to debilitate the post office."
He told DeJoy it is not his place to "make changes that will slow down mail or compromise service."
DeJoy, a businessman and Republican fundraiser who Trump named to the job in May, immediately ordered an end to overtime pay and to several formerly routine measures that helped get mail out the door in a timely fashion. He admitted in material circulated to post office employees that delays in delivery would result from the cost-cutting.
That has clearly happened. Customers locally and across the country have complained angrily about late delivery of mail, with some saying letters have arrived days or even weeks later than expected.
Schumer said he and DeJoy had "quite a strong discussion, let us say. He did not convince me of his bona fides."
The U.S. Postal Service, which in normal times relies on revenue from stamp sales and delivery fees, has suffered a decline in revenue during the coronavirus pandemic that is largely attributed to a huge drop-off in direct-mail advertising and letters.
Revenue losses were on pace to reach $13 billion this year, Schumer said, citing a report by the previous postmaster general.
At the same time, the service has had to deal with a steep increase in less-profitable package deliveries, even while dealing with extra costs and absenteeism due to the coronavirus.
The volume of packages is up 25 percent in the Rochester-Buffalo region this year compared to 2019, Schumer said.