WASHINGTON — UNITED STATES Postal service Mallory Shepard says she needs a lifeline.
“We are so short-staffed all the time. I am currently doing the work for which three people were employed before,” she said. “So much more has been put on each person in terms of workload.”
Shepard and the Postal Service hope help is on the way in a bipartisan bill. The Senate on Tuesday passed a bill that would free up nearly $50 billion in spending over the next decade and allow it to modernize and improve service across the country.
The House passed the legislation with bipartisan support last month. President Joe Biden is expected to sign it.
Shepard, a shop steward who worked as a mail clerk for nearly a decade in Waverly, Iowa, said she wanted savings on the bill to allow the agency to hire more employees to improve the customer service.
Thanks to an uptick in pandemic-related e-commerce, the spread of Covid among postal workers and an increase in parcels, the Postal Service has come under heavy criticism for longer delivery delays over the past two last years.
The average Postal Service fleet vehicle is nearly three decades old, and maintenance costs to keep the fleet in working order “remain high,” the Postal Service Inspector General’s Office said in a 2020 report.
In addition, the Postal Service recorded a net loss of $4.9 billion and operating revenue of $77 billion last year, he said.
The new legislation would require all post offices to serve customers at least six days a week, a change from a previous government watchdog agency’s recommendation of just five days a week to save money.
Proponents say the bill could benefit rural America the most, where post office closures and reduced staff numbers have affected some of the country’s most vulnerable people.
“There are parts of his country where people have to travel hundreds of miles just to get basic services because they live in very rural areas, but there is a post office right there,” said Mark Dimondstein, president of the American Postal Workers Union. in a telephone interview.
Dimondstein said the bill would allow the agency to hire more mail clerks and extend hours, rather than continuing to cut them.
Hundreds of post offices across the country have closed, especially in the center of the country, where they had lost money by remaining open, according to the inspector general.
Sandy Marshall worked as a clerk at an Iowa post office until it was torn down during the pandemic after hours were cut sharply.
“It’s been difficult for many communities,” she said.
The town she worked in had a “post office, bar and that was about it”, so in addition to being a necessity, the post office also gave residents the opportunity to socialize, especially during the pandemic, Marshall said.
The Postal Service Reform Act would improve the Postal Service’s finances by removing the agency’s requirement to pre-fund employee health benefits and move to a “pay-as-you-go” method. The new legislation would also require employees to enroll in Medicare, which would reduce the cost of health care premiums, according to the bill.
“I think overall it’s good news,” Dimondstein said. “Since this is an entity that does not operate with taxpayers’ money, it does not operate by putting money in the bank. It operates on a cost-effective basis in the service of the population. This bill will then contribute to providing better service to the people of the country.
As well as the savings, the legislation would create an online dashboard so customers can track delivery times – a service competitors like FedEx and UPS easily offer. The post office where Marshall now works in New Market, Iowa, doesn’t have an automated system, which means she does everything by hand.
Shepard, the Iowa shop steward, said, “We get a bad rap sometimes. But really, we all really care about each and every one of our customers, and everyone is really, really trying to do their best every day.