Daines, Tester say U.S. Postal Service must be preserved

HELENA — Montana’s two U.S. senators say Congress must act to salvage the Postal Service, which is bleeding cash and says it needs a $75 billion infusion.

“Montanans rely on the U.S. Postal Service for everything from prescription-drug delivery to absentee voting,” Democratic U.S. Sen. Jon Tester said Friday. “To say it is a crucial lifeline, especially for folks living in rural communities, would be an understatement.”

Republican U.S. Sen. Steve Daines also called the USPS “vital for a rural state like Montana,” as it delivers drugs and other necessities to areas not served by for-profit delivery companies.

“This is not just some kind of discretionary item,” he told MTN News this week. “This is a matter of life and possibly death if we were ever to lose the United States Postal Service. And so I support the efforts that we are making back in Washington D.C. to make sure we keep the USPS in good shape.”

But just what will happen in Congress, or at the White House, is unclear.

Earlier this spring, the Postal Service told Congress it needs $75 billion to bail it out of financial trouble that’s been exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic, and that it’s in danger of running out of money in September.

Yet President Trump said in March that he would not support direct aid for the Postal Service in the $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus bill, which ended up including only a $10 billion loan for the USPS.

Daines said a major reason for the Post Office’s financial trouble is a 2006 law, passed largely by Republicans and signed by President George W. Bush, that required the service to fund the cost of employee health benefits for 75 years in advance.

He called that provision “particularly unfair” and said he’s working on a bill to reverse it.

Tester said he, too, is pushing for ways to help the USPS pay down its considerable debt – and that he plans to co-sponsor a resolution next month calling for Congress to approve funds to offset losses tied to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“I will always fight tooth and nail to make sure the Postal Service and its 630,000 employees can continue serving the millions of Americans who depend on it to stay connected each and every day,” he said.