The coronavirus outbreak could shut down the post office in less than 3 months, lawmakers say

A US Postal Service worker.

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A US Postal Service worker.
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Scott Olson/Getty Images
  • Two US representatives said on Monday that the coronavirus outbreak could shut down the Postal Service by June.
  • By Tuesday morning, more than 46,000 coronavirus cases had been identified in the US. As of Friday, at least 20 postal workers had been sickened.
  • Any interruption in mail service could delay critical medicine deliveries and upend postal voting in the November election.
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Regular mail service could be shut down as early as June, two US representatives said, and the effects could be disastrous.

Critical supplies – like the more than 1 billion shipments of prescription drugs delivered by the Postal Service last year – could be stuck, mail voting in the November election could be stymied, and hundreds of thousands of postal employees could be out of work, Reps. Carolyn Maloney and Gerry Connolly said in a statement on Monday.

Based on a number of briefings and warnings this week about a critical fall-off in mail across the country, it has become clear that the Postal Service will not survive the summer without immediate help from Congress and the White House,” Maloney and Connolly said.

“Every community in America relies on the Postal Service to deliver vital goods and services, including life-saving medications. The Postal Service needs America’s help, and we must answer this call.”

The duo also introduced a bill that would provide $25 billion in emergency funding for the Postal Service while eliminating the agency’s debt and requiring it to prioritize medical deliveries.

The bill would also create temporary delivery points to protect workers. It’s not clear what these might look like, as the design would be left up to the Postal Service, but the bill’s language implies something similar to Amazon’s delivery lockers that allow people to send deliveries to a secure location other than their home.

Like hospitals, grocery stores, and other essential businesses, post offices have remained open despite many businesses closing as the coronavirus continues to spread. As of Tuesday morning, more than 46,000 cases had been identified in the US.

At least 20 postal workers had fallen sick by Friday, The New York Times reported this week. The head of the National Postal Mail Handlers Union told the paper that workers had gotten sick in Miami, New York City, Seattle, Portland, and other cities.

That’s a small number of the agency’s roughly 630,000 employees, but it underscores the outbreak’s effects on several industries.

“These negative effects could be even more dire in rural areas, where millions of Americans are sheltering in place and rely on the Postal Service to deliver essential staples,” Maloney and Connolly’s statement said.