Nicholas Wu USA TODAY
Published 6:39 PM EDT Sep 14, 2020
WASHINGTON – The Trump administration has not yet repaid the United States Postal Service more than six months after the agency sent out COVID-19 guidelines on postcards prominently featuring the president’s name.
USA TODAY reported earlier this year the total cost of printing and mailing the postcards was $28 million, with a total printing cost of $4.6 million, and the Trump administration was negotiating the reimbursement with the Postal Service for the cost.
But the bill for the postcards sent to 138 million residential addresses has still not been paid.
“No reimbursements have been made at this time,” said Postal Service spokesperson David Partenheimer.
“President Trump’s coronavirus guidelines for America” was emblazoned on one side of the postcard in uppercase letters. The other side of the card included social distancing recommendations, encouraging Americans to avoid restaurants and bars, forgo discretionary travel and cancel social gatherings with more than 10 people.
Trump took fire at the time from some people who said he politicized the distribution of public health information.
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The White House and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention did not respond to a request for comment.
The Postal Service faces financial troubles, having lost money every year for at least a decade. In the 2019 fiscal year, the Postal Service recorded $71 billion in revenue and more than $80 billion in expenses, or a roughly $9 billion loss.
Almost all of the agency’s funding comes from charging for mail, according to a May 2020 report from the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service. But mail volumes have decreased while expenses have increased. The agency also faces a large unfunded pension liability and an aging fleet of vehicles. USPS said last year 144,000 of its vehicles were over 20 years old.
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Postmaster General Louis DeJoy made efforts to cut costs across the agency, which led to nationwide mail delays earlier this year. The changes placed the Postal Service in the middle of a political firestorm as mail delays sparked alarm among lawmakers who feared the agency would be unable to handle an expected surge of mail-in ballots this November. DeJoy defended the cuts and changes to service as necessary to put the agency on a long-term path to financial sustainability, but under bipartisan pressure, he paused the changes until after Election Day.
“The President has made a career stiffing his contractors, and the US Postal Service is no different,” said Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., the chairman of the government operations subcommittee of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform. “The Trump administration has a responsibility to reimburse the USPS.”
Mark Dimondstein, the president of the American Postal Workers Union, which represents more than 200,000 employees of the Postal Service, told USA TODAY the Trump administration was undermining the finances of the Postal Service by not paying for the postcards and it was as if “they expected the service for free.”
“We’re all expected to pay our bills when we use the service,” he said, adding that under normal circumstances, large mailings like the postcards would be paid in advance.
“It should be the same standard for this administration,” he said.
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Trump has criticized the agency over its finances and called the controversy over the Postal Service is a “hoax.” He’s also said mail-in voting would lead to increased voter fraud. An analysis from the nonpartisan Brennan Center for Justice found 491 cases of absentee voter fraud from 2000 to 2012.
The Democratic-controlled House of Representatives passed $25 billion in additional funding for the Postal Service last month, but the Republican-controlled Senate is unlikely to act on the legislation.
Contributing: John Fritze
Published 6:39 PM EDT Sep 14, 2020