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Coronavirus could shut down the Postal Service in less than 3 months, lawmakers warn

Business Insider logo Business Insider 3/24/2020 Graham Rapier

 

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Regular mail service could be shut down as early as June, two U.S. representatives are warning, and the effects could be disastrous.

Critical supplies, like the post office's billion shipments of prescription drugs last year, could be stuck, mail voting in the upcoming November election could be stymied, and hundreds of thousands of postal employees could be out of work.

"Based on a number of briefings and warnings this week about a critical fall-off in mail across the country, it has become clear that the Postal Service will not survive the summer without immediate help from Congress and the White House," representatives Carolyn Maloney and Gerry Connolly, said in a statement Monday.

"Every community in America relies on the Postal Service to deliver vital goods and services, including life-saving medications. The Postal Service needs America's help, and we must answer this call."

The duo also introduced a bill that would provide $25 billion in emergency funding for the Postal Service, while eliminating the agency's debt and requiring it to prioritize medical deliveries.

The bill would also create temporary delivery points in order to protect workers. It's not clear what these might look like, as the design is left up to the Postal Service, but the language implies something similar to Amazon's delivery lockers that allow people to order deliveries to a secure location other than their home.

Post Offices, like hospitals, grocery stores, and other essential businesses, have remained open despite the shuttering of many others as the coronavirus continues to spread. As of Tuesday morning, more than 46,000 cases had been identified in the country, some of those have included postal workers.

Some 13 postal workers had fallen sick by last Thursday,tThe New York Times reported. The head of the Postal Mail Handlers Union told the paper that workers have fallen sick in Miami, New York City, Seattle, Portland and others. It's a small number of the agency's roughly 630,000 employees but underscores the effects the virus has had on a number of industries.

"These negative effects could be even more dire in rural areas, where millions of Americans are sheltering in place and rely on the Postal Service to deliver essential staples," the representatives' statement said.

a white bus parked in front of a truck © Scott Olson/Getty Images

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