September 24, 2020
New USPS rescue bill this week? What it is and why it might happen

What the new USPS bill means for the next stimulus bill


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USPS collection boxes near Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.


Erin Scott/Getty Images

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

On Saturday, the US House of Representatives passed legislation that bans recent changes to the US Postal Service that could affect up to 80 million people’s ability to vote by mail during the November presidential election amid the coronavirus pandemic. The bill also provides $25 billion in additional funding for the USPS. Though the House came back from its August recess early for the vote, it didn’t vote on another coronavirus relief package, so we still don’t know when one will come, or when you might get your second stimulus check.

The $25 billion in funding for the USPS was originally included in a larger coronavirus stimulus package, but negotiations between House Democrats and Republicans broke down before Congress adjourned on Aug. 7. In a Saturday press conference, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she wasn’t in favor of splitting up the Democrat-backed Heroes Act coronavirus relief package, but that the USPS situation was “an emergency” and that the bill passed includes additional policy for the USPS that wasn’t found in the Heroes Act. 

Though the bill isn’t likely to make it through the Republican-led Senate, it could restart negotiations on other, smaller stimulus relief bills, which may or may not include a second stimulus check. 

Votes on the bill, a revised version of the Delivering for America Act (PDF) introduced by Democrats Aug. 12 in response to the changes proposed by Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, fell along party lines, with Democrats supporting it. The USPS had warned election officials in 46 states that mail-in ballots might not be delivered on time. DeJoy testified at a House of Representatives committee hearing on Friday and will testify again Monday (more below).

Here’s everything you need to know about what the bill contains, what happens next in terms of stimulus package negotiations, what the Republicans say and what the controversy is all about in the first place. For a more in-depth look, scroll to the end for a summary of the controversy and read our deep dive into what’s been going on with USPS

What will happen with the USPS bill now? 

The Delivering for America Act now moves on to the Republican-led Senate, where it isn’t expected to pass. On Friday, the White House released a statement of administrative policy that said the administration “strongly opposes” the passage of the bill, and that if it were presented to President Donald Trump, “his advisors would recommend that he veto the bill.” 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told the Louisville Courier-Journal on Tuesday that the Senate is unlikely to pass a bill that only addresses the USPS. Instead, Senate Republicans plan to introduce a “skinny” coronavirus stimulus package that could include $10 billion allocated for the USPS, along with $300 in weekly unemployment benefits that may be similar to an executive action signed by Trump. 

McConnell told the Courier-Journal that Saturday’s House vote “could open the opportunity for discussion about something smaller than what the speaker and the Democratic Senate leader were insisting on at the point of impasse.” 

Would a USPS law help or hurt the stimulus bill?

At this point, we don’t know. A couple of different scenarios could play out from here:

  • The Republican-proposed “skinny” coronavirus relief bill gets passed in the Senate. This bill includes some provisions from the HEALS act, including supplemental unemployment benefits of $300 per week through December and funding for schools and COVID-19 testing. It would also allocate $10 billion for the USPS. However, it doesn’t include funding for a second stimulus check. 
  • The House and Senate end up passing a couple of smaller bills involving the USPS and coronavirus relief, rather than either the Republican-backed HEALS Act or the Democrat-backed Heroes Acts. Those smaller bills may or may not include a second stimulus check. 

Lawmakers on both sides agree on the need for a second stimulus check — the question is just when a bill will pass. Both Republicans and Democrats also say they’d consider passing smaller coronavirus relief bills. White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows said last Sunday that he was open to “piecemeal” legislation around the US Postal Service, as well as around stimulus relief

“If we can agree on postal, let’s do it. If we can agree on stimulus checks, let’s do it,” Meadows said. “Congress needs to come back and get their act together.” 

On Wednesday, more than 100 House Democrats signed a letter asking Pelosi to vote on a bill to extend unemployment benefits during the Saturday session. But in a letter to colleagues on Thursday, Pelosi said this would be taken up at a later date to ensure the priorities of the Heroes Act aren’t compromised. 

We’ll keep updating this story as the situation develops. 

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Mail-in, or absentee, ballots are seen as a safe way for millions of Americans to vote during the coronavirus pandemic. That requires a fully functional USPS that can handle the increased load.


Jason Redmond/Getty Images

What exactly does the new USPS bill include? 

The Democrat USPS bill (PDF) that passed Saturday in the House says that from the time it’s enacted until either Jan. 1, 2021, or the last day of the COVID-19 pandemic — whichever is later — the USPS may not implement or approve any change to its operations or level of service, other than those that went into effect on Jan. 1, 2020. 

In terms of funding, the bill calls for an additional payment of $25 billion to the USPS. 

Changes that would be prohibited if this bill becomes law include: 

  • Any change in the nature of postal services that will generally affect service on a nationwide basis.
  • Any revision of service standards.
  • Any closure or consolidation of any post office, or reduction of facility hours.
  • Any prohibition on overtime pay to USPS officers or employees.
  • Any change that would prevent the USPS from meeting its service standards, or cause a decline in performance. 
  • Any change that would delay mail or increase the volume of undelivered mail. 
  • Treating election mail as anything other than first-class mail, even if this requires the service to pay employees overtime.
  • Removing, decommissioning or otherwise stopping mail sorting machines for anything but routine maintenance.
  • Removing any mail collection box available to the public. 
  • Enacting any rule, policy or standard that causes a delay in mail delivery to or from a government entity.
  • Instituting any hiring freeze.

The bill also calls for the reversal of any policies that hinder mail delivery, and for same-day election mail processing.

Read moreThe 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 current controversy involving the USPS started in June, when DeJoy, a major GOP donor, took the role of postmaster general and rolled out a series of cost-cutting measures designed to make the postal service more profitable, at the behest of Trump. This including cutting overtime, reorganizing the agency’s structure and calling for late-arriving mail to be delivered the next day, which has resulted in a national slowdown of mail

Mail sorting machines and collection boxes have also been removed, fueling doubt that there will be adequate infrastructure to support mail-in ballots.

DeJoy announced on Tuesday that the USPS won’t change its retail hours or close mail processing facilities, and mail collection boxes will remain where they are until after the election, to “avoid even the appearance of any impact on election mail.” 

After speaking with DeJoy, however, Pelosi released a statement calling the pause to changes “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 said in the statement. 

DeJoy testified about the recent changes made to the USPS during a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing on Friday. He said that mail volume has dropped in recent years as package volume has grown, particularly during the pandemic. He has no intention, therefore, to bring back the 671 mail sorting machines that have been removed so far, because “they’re not needed,” he said during the hearing. There will be no changes made to election mail, he added. 

DeJoy will also testify about the USPS changes before the House Oversight and Reform Committee on Monday. 



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