News Release

Postal Bankruptcy Would Hit Rural America Hardest

SARAH ANDERSON, sarah at ips-dc.org, @ips_dc
SCOTT KLINGER, scottklinger at earthlink.net
Anderson directs the Global Economy Project of the Institute for Policy Studies, and is a co-editor of Inequality.org. Klinger is senior equitable development specialist at Jobs with Justice and an associate fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies.

They just co-wrote the piece “Postal Bankruptcy Would Hit Rural America Hardest” and wrote a report on the subject. They write: “A USPS shutdown would be devastating for the entire country, but especially for the rural communities that rely most on a public service with a universal mandate to serve every address, no matter how remote.”

They find that “the 15 most rural U.S. states would face heavy blows to jobs, revenue, mail and package deliveries, and voting rights.”

In these states with the “largest share of their population in rural areas, more than 75,000 people work directly for the Postal Service — more than are employed in many other major job categories. The total mailing industry employs nearly 700,000 people and generates more than $150 billion in revenue per year in these heavily rural states. Twelve of these states have larger than average shares of 65 and older residents, a group that tends to rely heavily on USPS for medicine, bill paying, and other services.

“USPS provides service at uniform and reasonable rates, delivering to 157 million addresses at least six days a week, no matter where they live. The Postal Service uses revenue from more profitable services to cover much more expensive rural services. …

“Across the country, an estimated 20 percent of all Americans over 40 who are prescribed medication for a chronic condition get their prescriptions exclusively through the Postal Service. An even greater share of the rural population relies on mail order prescriptions since so many pharmacies in rural communities have shut down. Veterans, nearly one-quarter of whom live in rural communities, receive 80 percent of their prescriptions through the mail. …

“Even in ‘normal times’ (without a pandemic), many rural residents either must vote by mail or find it much more convenient to do so. In Minnesota, for example, 130,000 people in towns and townships with less than 400 voters automatically get mail ballots because they do not have physical polling sites. Rural voters are older on average than other voters and often have long drives to their nearest polling places. Vote by mail helps them exercise their fundamental democratic right to vote.

“Although bipartisan lawmakers agreed to an emergency direct aid plan in March, President Trump intervened to strip it from the $2.3 trillion stimulus bill and has vowed to block any future proposals for USPS grant aid of the type offered to the airlines, small businesses, hospitals, and Amtrak. Instead, the CARES Act included only the possibility of a $10 billion loan, subject to draconian conditions that the PMG [postmaster general] and postal board have thus far rejected.”

Earlier this year, Anderson and Klinger co-wrote report the “How Congress Manufactured a Postal Crisis — And How to Fix it.”