Suozzi, Rice push for legislation to aid United States Postal Service

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U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove) spoke on the importance of the United States Postal Service during a Monday press conference. (Photo courtesy of the congressman's office)

U.S. Reps. Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove) and Kathleen Rice (D-Garden City) pledged their support to the U.S. Postal Service and called upon Congress to pass legislation that would provide the service with $25 billion worth of emergency funding.

Both members of Congress have attached their names to legislation proposed and co-sponsored by Carolyn Maloney (D-New York City) that would prohibit the Postal Service from implementing operational changes.

The Heroes Act, which would provide the Postal Service with $25 billion to offset financial losses from the coronavirus pandemic, still remains idle in the Senate, Suozzi noted.

The two Long Island Democrats held their respective news conferences on Monday and Tuesday, both joined by representatives of postal unions.  While their locations differed, Suozzi and Rice both spoke on the importance of the Postal Service at a time where people throughout the nation are becoming more dependent on mail-in election ballots, obtaining medicine and prescriptions.

“Undermining and starving the USPS from much-needed funding will have collateral damage that will impact more than mail-in ballots,” Suozzi said. “We need an urgent call to arms to break through all the noise and focus on protecting not only the security of our elections, but the integrity and reliability of the United States Postal Service. Lives, livelihoods, and our democracy are at stake.”

“The president’s plan to dismantle the Postal Service proves he does not care about seniors, veterans, or anyone else who relies on its services for essential deliveries,” Rice said. “He only cares about himself and his own re-election chances.”

Both members of Congress were vocal about President Donald Trump’s lack of motivation to provide aid to the Postal Service.  The changes that Postmaster General Louis Dejoy has made in the Postal Service since assuming the position on June 15 and his ties to the Trump campaign were also a topic of discussion.

Since 2016, according to Federal Election Commission records, DeJoy has contributed more than $1.2 million to the Trump campaign. DeJoy has contributed almost $1.3 million to the Republican Party, according to The New York Times.

Since taking over as postmaster general in June, DeJoy has implemented changes to the Postal Service headlined by dismantling and removing mail-sorting machines from facilities throughout the nation and eliminating employee overtime.

Kevin Tabarus, president of the National Mail Handlers Union Local 300, said: “Never has the White House played politics with the Postal Service for political gain. Never has a postmaster general tried to ruin the Postal Service. Mail is being delayed and we are grateful for Congressman Suozzi’s attention with this urgent matter during these unprecedented times in postal history.”

The National Mail Handlers Union Local 300 represents approximately 5,200 mail handlers  throughout the New York City area, including Long Island, and parts of New Jersey and Connecticut.

Peter Furgiuele, president of the Long Island American Postal Workers Union, said employees of the Postal Service have been shown “a total lack of respect” from DeJoy since he assumed his post. 

“His first order of business was to remove a total 671 sorting machines from Postal Distribution Centers throughout the country, and order a stop to overtime,” Furgiuele said. “These actions alone have caused tremendous backlog of mail nationwide, and to compound the problem, many post offices are now closing for lunch which directly affects revenue.”

Furgiuele said he and other postal workers took a “personal offense” to Trump referring to the Postal Service as “a joke” in April.

Trump has since shifted his focus to mail-in voting, which he has called “catastrophic.” 

“The U.S. Post Office (System) has been failing for many decades,” Trump tweeted on Monday. “We simply want to MAKE THE POST OFFICE GREAT AGAIN, while at the same time saving billions of dollars a year for American Taxpayers. Dems don’t have a clue!”

“The House will vote on legislation in the coming days to rebuke the President’s plan, and I will continue to oppose any efforts to undermine or delegitimize the Postal Service,” Rice said. “We will not let the president get away with this assault on one of our democracy’s most important institutions.”

Rice said DeJoy voluntarily agreed to testify about the changes before the House Committee on Oversight and Reform on Aug. 24, of which Maloney is the chairwoman.

Former Postmaster General Megan Brennan warned in Washington last week that the Postal Service is anticipating a loss of $13 billion in revenue this year.

Brennan also said the system is facing a loss of another $54 billion over the longer term due to the coronavirus.

She discussed the expected revenue losses with the House Oversight and Reform Committee on April 9.  Brennan told lawmakers that the agency would need $25 billion in federal grants to cover the revenue already lost because of the pandemic.

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