What the brand new USPS invoice means for the subsequent stimulus package deal

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USPS assortment bins close to Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.

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This story is part of Elections 2020, CNET’s coverage of the run-up to voting in November.

Lawmakers from each side of the aisle have diverted consideration from negotiations over the coronavirus relief package to handle a crisis within the US Postal Service that spans from funding to modifications that some say might have an effect on up to 80 million people’s ability to vote by mail in the course of the November presidential election. Mail-in and absentee voting are seen as essential to assist preserve polling locations from grow to be hotspots for spreading the coronavirus. The query stays: Will the sudden give attention to the USPS have an effect on the stimulus package deal? 

Here’s what we all know up to now. For a extra in-depth look, scroll to the tip for a abstract of the controversy and skim our deep dive into what’s been going on with USPS

A story of two USPS payments

On Saturday, the US House of Representatives handed laws that bans recent changes to the US Postal Service and in addition supplies $25 billion in extra funding for the USPS. Though the House got here again from its August recess early for the vote, it did not embrace some other provisions from the coronavirus relief package. We nonetheless do not know when one will come, or once you may get your second stimulus check.

The $25 billion in funding for the USPS was initially included in a bigger coronavirus stimulus package, however negotiations between House Democrats and Republicans broke down before Congress adjourned on Aug. 7. In a Saturday press conference, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi stated she wasn’t in favor of splitting up the coronavirus aid package deal, however that the USPS scenario was “an emergency” and that the invoice handed contains extra coverage that the House hasn’t issued in its previous proposal over 100 days ago.

The Republican-led Senate “will not pass stand-alone legislation for the Postal Service,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Saturday on Twitter

Senate Republicans plan to introduce a “skinny” coronavirus stimulus package referred to as the Delivering Immediate Relief to America’s Families, Schools and Small Businesses Act (PDF) that features $10 billion allotted for the USPS, together with $300 in weekly unemployment benefits — much like an executive action signed by President Donald Trump. The draft of this proposed package deal doesn’t embrace funding for a second spherical of stimulus checks, nonetheless. But the invoice might restart negotiations on different, smaller stimulus aid payments that might embrace a slice of different applications.

Would a USPS legislation assist or harm the stimulus invoice?

At this level, we do not know. Lawmakers on each side agree on the necessity for a second stimulus check and different rescue applications. A few completely different situations might play out from right here:

  • The Republican invoice with USPS funding and a few provisions might move, and lawmakers might agree on one other stimulus package deal down the road.
  • A collection of standalone payments, together with a USPS invoice, might move over the course of the approaching weeks and months.
  • A USPS invoice might move with some provisions, with out lawmakers selecting up the subject of a bigger stimulus invoice.
  • An emergency invoice might move now, with negotiations for a bigger stimulus package deal or standalone payments resuming after the US presidential election.
  • No invoice might move and the negotiations might stay in stalemate.

Mail-in, or absentee, ballots are seen as a secure manner for hundreds of thousands of Americans to vote in the course of the coronavirus pandemic. That requires a totally practical USPS that may deal with the elevated load.

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What precisely does the House’s USPS invoice embrace? 

The Democratic USPS bill (PDF) that handed Saturday within the House says that from the time it is enacted till both Jan. 1, 2021, or the final day of the COVID-19 pandemic — whichever is later — the USPS might not implement or approve any change to its operations or degree of service, aside from those who went into impact on Jan. 1, 2020. 

In phrases of funding, the invoice requires an extra fee of $25 billion to the USPS. 

Changes that may be prohibited if this invoice turns into legislation embrace: 

  • Any change within the nature of postal providers that may usually have an effect on service on a nationwide foundation.
  • Any revision of service requirements.
  • Any closure or consolidation of any put up workplace, or discount of facility hours.
  • Any prohibition on time beyond regulation pay to USPS officers or workers.
  • Any change that may forestall the USPS from assembly its service requirements, or trigger a decline in efficiency. 
  • Any change that may delay mail or improve the amount of undelivered mail. 
  • Treating election mail as something aside from first-class mail, even when this requires the service to pay workers time beyond regulation.
  • Removing, decommissioning or in any other case stopping mail sorting machines for something however routine upkeep.
  • Removing any mail assortment field obtainable to the general public. 
  • Enacting any rule, coverage or customary that causes a delay in mail supply to or from a authorities entity.
  • Instituting any hiring freeze.

The invoice additionally requires the reversal of any insurance policies that hinder mail supply, and for same-day election mail processing.

Read extraThe threat to vote by mail isn’t fraud. It’s disinformation and sabotage 

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What’s the controversy with the USPS? 

The present controversy involving the USPS began in June, when DeJoy, a serious GOP donor, took the position of postmaster basic and rolled out a series of cost-cutting measures designed to make the postal service extra worthwhile, on the behest of Trump. This together with slicing time beyond regulation, reorganizing the agency’s structure and calling for late-arriving mail to be delivered the subsequent day, which has resulted in a national slowdown of mail

Mail sorting machines and assortment bins have also been removed, fueling doubt that there can be enough infrastructure to help mail-in ballots.

DeJoy announced on Tuesday that the USPS will not change its retail hours or shut mail processing amenities, and mail assortment bins will stay the place they’re till after the election, to “avoid even the appearance of any impact on election mail.” 

After talking with DeJoy, nonetheless, Pelosi launched a statement calling the pause to modifications “insufficient.” 

“The Postmaster General frankly admitted that he had no intention of replacing the sorting machines, blue mailboxes and other key mail infrastructure that have been removed and that plans for adequate overtime, which is critical for the timely delivery of mail, are not in the works,” Pelosi stated within the assertion. 

DeJoy testified in regards to the current modifications made to the USPS throughout a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee listening to on Friday. He stated that mail quantity has dropped in recent times as package deal quantity has grown, significantly in the course of the pandemic. He has no intention, subsequently, to convey again the 671 mail sorting machines which were eliminated up to now, as a result of “they’re not needed,” he stated in the course of the listening to. There can be no modifications made to election mail, he added. 

On Monday, at a listening to in regards to the USPS modifications before the House Oversight and Reform Committee, DeJoy said that among the modifications made haven’t gone smoothy and have led to delays, however that enhancements are underway. He additionally stated once more that the USPS would prioritize election mail forward of Nov. 3. 

“I encourage all Americans who choose to vote by mail to request their ballots early and vote early as a common sense best practice,” DeJoy stated in his opening statement

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