On May 17, the House Committee on Oversight and Accountability’s (COA) Subcommittee on Government Operations and the Federal Workforce held a hearing titled “Tracking the Postal Service: An Update on the Delivering for America Plan” to seek updates from Postmaster General Louis DeJoy regarding implementation of the 10-year Delivering for American Plan, including the Postal Service Reform Act (PSRA) — a cornerstone of the plan.
During the hearing, Committee members placed highlighted concerns regarding financial stability of the agency, of USPS, mail service reliability, staffing, network realignment and more. Lawmakers also pressed the Postal Service regarding its plan to ensure safe working environments for USPS employees, and how it is combating mail theft and crime, particularly violent assaults on letter carriers.
In fact, in opening remarks, Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA) highlighted an assault this week on his district office staff, which was interrupted by a letter carrier who startled and distracted the assailant enabling staff to escape a violent attack. “One of the heroes in the story was actually the postman,” Connolly said. “He came to the office while the attack was going on… And that allowed the woman who was being beaten on the head to escape. And he's an unsung hero in our story.”
Ranking Member Jamie Raskin (D-MD) criticized DeJoy’s recently announced plan for combating the issue of mail-related crime as “light on proactive protection for letter carriers.” He emphasized that this problem has become increasingly serious, noting that over 2,000 postal carriers have been assaulted or robbed since 2020 with 305 carriers targeted in 2023 alone. Rep. Raskin, along with Rep. Kweisi Mfume (D-MD) and Rep. Connolly, sent a letter to Postmaster General DeJoy ahead of Wednesday’s hearing requesting details on the Postal Service’s new plans to protect postal employees. In response to Rep. Raskin’s question regarding whether DeJoy could permit postal police officers to protect carriers on their delivery routes in high-crime areas, not just post-office facilities, DeJoy said he did not have the authority or the necessary number of postal police officers at his disposal. Last month, Rep. Andrew Garbarino (R-NY) reintroduced the Postal Police Reform Act, which would address this issue by reversing a 2020 directive from the Chief Postal Inspector that restricts postal police to postal facilities only.
Overall, Dejoy did not offer any specifics on USPS’s plan to protect letter carriers and committed to getting back to the committee with more information by June 12, 2023, which was outlined in the letter.
In addition to concerns around the increase in assaults on letter carriers, lawmakers also questioned DeJoy on what the USPS is doing to protect other aspects of the health and safety of employees. They indicated that a high number of letter carriers and postal workers have reached out directly to their offices to raise their concerns and pointed to specific instances of letter carriers being ill or injured on the job, facing exposure to dangerously hot or cold temperatures, being impacted by lack of staffing and high turnover, and more.
DeJoy recognized these issues and said that the Delivering for America plan is meant to improve these conditions and address these concerns, but financial limitations present a significant challenge in responding to these issues.
NALC is committed to utilizing every available resource to address this increase in attacks on letter carriers, including engaging the public, coordinating with local law enforcement, pursuing legislation and seeking strategies like enforcement measures and protective video technology that will better protect letter carriers and prevent these crimes. In a statement on May 10, NALC Executive Vice President Paul Barner stressed that, “While we will continue to engage with the Postal Service and relevant law enforcement agencies to develop measures that will enhance the safety of letter carriers, the fear and the danger that letter carriers are confronting has to end.” He added, “We demand real, immediate solutions to make sure employees are safe from the moment we enter the trucks in the morning to the time we leave the station at the end of the shift.”
On the issue of Postal Service finances, several lawmakers, and DeJoy, recognized the increased financial stability USPS has seen over the last year following the passage of the bipartisan PSRA. However, many members were critical and pressed DeJoy on the agency’s finances. Specifically, Rep. Gary Palmer (R-AL) questioned DeJoy about when he expected the Postal Service to “break even.”
DeJoy pointed out that the 10-year plan accounts for executive action on the Postal Service’s obligations to Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) pensions. This was a reference to the Segal Report, a 2010 report from the Postal Regulatory Commission that directs the Office of Personnel Management to accurately value USPS’s CSRS pension assets and liability. If these recommendations, which can only be achieved through executive action, were implemented, the Postal Service would save billions of dollars annually. For years, NALC has been advocating for administrative action on this issue, which complements the repeal of the pre-funding mandate and other financial victories from the PSRA.
Rep. Palmer also questioned DeJoy on the Postal Service’s investment strategy with regards to the $299 billion in assets and employee pensions currently on Treasury’s books. Palmer pinpointed the Federal Employees Retirement Plan (FERS) and CSRS investment model for the rest of the federal government and whether an alternative investment model would benefit the agency. The question comes following a recent Inspector General Report, the Postal Service Investment and Interest Rate Risk audit report, that outlined how other investment strategies would result in a significant return on investment.
DeJoy acknowledged that if the $299 billion on Treasury’s books were invested differently, USPS’s investment funds could be more than doubled. DeJoy noted that any change to the existing investment strategy would have to be approved by Congress legislatively.
NALC has long advocated for recalculation of Postal Service pension liabilities with the White House and will continue to do so. With regards to investment, NALC is encouraged to see support and congressional interest in a more sound investment approach and will work with lawmakers to pursue legislation.
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