As more and more cases of COVID-19 pop up, American citizens are now wondering about some of the most exposed workers on the front line: letter carriers. The Postal Service is an essential business, and eCommerce businesses rely heavily on postal carriers. They have to keep working to provide those services, even though they themselves are falling ill or feeling scared. This is why, as cases within the agency rise, USPS must protect their workers in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.
USPS Has Reached an Agreement with Labor Unions
Over 40 USPS employees have tested positive for coronavirus. In response, the agency has negotiated with their employees’ labor unions to implement new measures to protect workers. These measures include the availability of surgical masks and gloves for workers to use. USPS will also regularly clean surfaces that are frequently touched by workers. These changes come along with the altered Signature Confirmation procedures USPS enforced to further protect Postal carriers. As the pandemic plays out, USPS will do everything possible to protect employees, as stressed by postal spokesperson Dave Partenheimer:
“The safety of our employees is remains our highest priority…We are aware there are some facilities are in need of additional supplies and equipment and we are urgently working to make sure all our employees have what they need to stay safe and healthy.”
In addition, supervisors are leaning on a more tolerant policy with 80 hours of paid leave to further protect employees. This will allow workers to self-quarantine and care for their families if they come into contact with the virus.
The Postal Service Stands to Receive Cash from Stimulus Package
On top of letter carriers’ physical health, the financial health of USPS is also still in question. The coronavirus will certainly cause an economic decline, which will in turn affect the already-struggling Postal Service. The Democrats initially pushed for a stimulus package would grant $25 billion to USPS. In addition, this cash infusion would have eliminated the outstanding debt ($11 billion) that USPS owes the US Treasury. However, the final bill signed into law doesn’t include this provision.
The CARES Act will simply increase the Postal Service’s borrowing power from the Treasury to $10 billion, and nothing more. The agency has faced slumps in revenue during economic recessions, and this measure is set to financially cushion USPS and its workers during this pandemic. While the added borrowing power will help stave off insolvency, it doesn’t place the Postal Service on the solid financial footing that the Democrats initially pushed for.
USPS Will Shut Down Operations to Protect Employees from Coronavirus
USPS is providing an essential service during the coronavirus pandemic, though it will suspend services in some areas to contain the spread of the virus. This will only happen if necessary, as USPS is central to the delivery of medications and supplies during this pandemic. To this point, the postal spokesperson stated:
“We are actively monitoring all aspects of our business operations and functions, and we are highly confident in our ability to process and deliver the nation’s mail and packages throughout this emergency.”
As USPS alters their policies and service, it will make adjustments to support areas hit hard by coronavirus. One of the Postal Service’s main goals is to make shelter-in-place and social distancing more possible for Americans. In order to do so, the agency is communicating daily with its employees, labor unions, and public health officials to protect its workers and the population it serves.