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U.S. Postal Service Begs for Funding, Warns It Could Run Out of Money by End of September

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  • The U.S. Postal Service is asking lawmakers for $89 billion to help keep it afloat, warning that it could run out of operational funds by the end of September.
  • The coronavirus pandemic led to a drastic 30% decline in mail volume last week, with the service estimating a 50% drop by the end of the third quarter. 
  • Still, postal employees have continued to deliver essentials like prescriptions, mail-in ballots, medical supplies, and more all over the country and Democrats warn that without them, many could lose access to necessary goods. 
  • Lawmakers have been battling to agree on relief deals, with some believing conservatives and the Trump administration are using the pandemic to force the mail service towards privatization. 

Post Office Sees Drastic Mail Decline 

The U.S. Postal Service is begging lawmakers for $89 billion to help to keep it from crumbling, saying it could run out of operational funds by the end of September if it doesn’t receive financial assistance. 

In a video conference Thursday with members of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, Postmaster General Megan Brennan told lawmakers that the USPS believes it will see a “$13 billion revenue loss” this year due to the coronavirus pandemic. Their projections say the virus could cost the agency another $54 billion over the next decade.

The U.S. Postal Service has faced financial struggles for some time now, but the pandemic has added new strain that quickly escalated problems. Mail volume has drastically declined in recent weeks as businesses all over the world close their doors, pause their services, and cut back on advertisements. 

The mail volume had dropped by 5.3% four weeks ago, according to Rep. Gerry Connolly, a Virginia Democrat and the chairman of the oversight subcommittee that oversees the USPS. Last week, it saw a 30% decline and the post office estimates that it could see as much as a 50% drop in the third quarter of this year. 

Package volume has increased, however, packages only make up less than 30% of total revenue for the agency.

But even with the declining volume of mail, postal workers have remained on the front line of the crisis, delivering essential goods like medical supplies, prescriptions, lab test materials, mail-in ballots, paperwork for unemployment claims, and other crucial items. Like medical professionals, grocery store employees, and countless other essential workers, they too are struggling with low stocks of protective gear as they work to deliver these items amid the pandemic.

Unlike other private mail carriers, the U.S. Postal Service is required to deliver goods all over the country, including in rural areas where profit margins are smaller. Without its services, Democrats warn that vulnerable populations would lose their access to necessary items. 

USPS Asks For Help 

The Postal Service is asking Congress for the $89 billion to help keep it running.

According to House Democrats, the USPS is asking for $25 billion in federal grants to cover lost revenue from the pandemic, $25 billion in “unrestricted borrowing authority from Treasury,” and another $25 billion to help modernize its aging infrastructure. It is also requesting $14 billion needed to pay off debt related to a retirement benefits program. 

“At a time when America needs the Postal Service more than ever, the reason we are so needed is having a devastating effect on our business,” Brennan told The New York Times Thursday. “The sudden drop in mail volumes, our most profitable revenue stream, is steep and may never fully recover.”

Lawmakers Battle Over How to Help

The battle between Republicans and Democrats over funding for the mail system has been fierce and efforts to give the agency money in the $2.2 trillion stimulus package failed.

As far as President Donald Trump’s stance on the issue, he argued that the agency could fix its economic problems by raising prices of packages delivered by big online retailers like Amazon. 

“They have to raise the prices to these companies that walk in and drop thousands of packages on the floor of the Post Office and say, ‘Deliver it,’” Trump said at a press briefing this week. “And if they’d raise the prices by actually a lot, then you’d find out that the Post Office could make money or break even. But they don’t do that. And I’m trying to figure out why.”

According to CNN, sources told the network that the Trump administration rejected any direct funding for the USPS when Democrats tried to include $25 billion for the agency during discussions. Instead, the USPS was promised it could apply for $10 billion in loans with the Treasury Department. The problem there is that loans come with strings attached that Democrats say add more burdens to the struggling agency. 

Some lawmakers, postal union workers, and others who rely on the agency fear that the Trump administration is using the crisis to try and achieve conservative’s long-running goal of pushing the mail service towards privatization.  Many believe that the administration is trying to do this by forcing the service into tough loan terms or into bankruptcy, which would help commercial competitors like UPS and FedEx.   

Democrats have been increasingly vocal about assisting the post office in recent days, drawing in support with the hashtag #SaveThePostOffice which was trending Friday.

“As Congress and the Administration take steps to support businesses and industries around the country, it is imperative that they also take action to shore up the finances of the Postal Service, and enable us to continue to fulfill our indispensable role during the pandemic, and to play an effective role in the nation’s economic recovery,” Brennan said in a statement.

“We are at a critical juncture in the life of the Postal Service,” she added. “At a time when America needs the Postal Service more than ever, the reason we are so needed is having a devastating effect on our business.”

See what others are saying: (CNN) (The New York Times) (Fox News

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FDA Authorizes Moderna and J&J COVID Vaccine Boosters, Approves Mix-and-Match Doses

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The approval will allow at-risk Americans who received Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to get any booster six months after their initial series and all Johnson & Johnson recipients 18 and older to do the same two months after their single-shot dose.


New FDA Authorization

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Wednesday authorized boosters shots of Moderna and Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines and approved a mix-and-match strategy that will allow people who got one company’s shot to get a booster from a different maker.

The decision paves the way for millions of more at-risk Americans to get extra protection, and not just certain Pfizer recipients as previously approved by the FDA.

Under the authorization, people who received Moderna or Pfizer can get any one of the three booster shots six months after completing their initial series if they are 65 and older, at high risk of severe COVID, or face increased exposure because of their work.

Meanwhile, all J&J recipients 18 and older can get any of the approved vaccines two months after they received the one-shot jab.

Hazy Recommendations, For Now

Notably, the FDA did not recommend a certain combination of vaccines, nor did the agency say whether or not it would be more effective for people to stick with their original vaccine maker for their booster.

The new authorizations draw on a study from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which found that there are no safety concerns with mixing boosters and that vaccine combinations were at least as effective in stimulating antibodies as matched vaccines.

In the case of J&J recipients, the NIH found that people actually had a higher boost from mixing either Moderna or Pfizer boosters.

However, some of the scientists who worked on the study said it should not be used to recommend one combination over another because the research was limited.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which determines vaccine recommendations, could issue more guidance on when and whether people should switch vaccine makers for their booster shots.

An advisory panel for the agency is meeting Thursday to discuss the new FDA authorizations and recommendations.

Once the panel makes its decision, the CDC director has the final say on the guidelines. If the agency agrees with the FDA’s decisions, the booster shots could be rolled out as soon as this weekend.

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (NPR) (The Washington Post)

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Paris Hilton Urges Lawmakers To Crack Down on Abusive Teen Treatment Facilities

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The heiress alleges that she was a victim of abuse in these types of centers for two years and wants to ensure that no child suffers through the same experience.


Paris Hilton Details Abuse Within “Troubled Teen Industry”

Socialite and entrepreneur Paris Hilton spoke outside of the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday to support the Accountability for Congregate Care Act, which is set to be introduced in the near future.

Hilton joined Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA), Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), and Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) to advocate for the legislation, which aims to create a “bill of rights” for children in treatment and behavioral centers.

The heiress has alleged that she spent two of her teenage years in these types of facilities and was subject to rampant abuse. She is far from alone. 

During a press conference, Hilton said that one night when she was 16, she woke up to two large men in her bedroom forcing her out of her house. She said she screamed for help because she thought she was being kidnapped, but her parents watched as she was taken away to a “troubled teen” program. 

“Like countless other parents of teens, my parents had searched for solutions to my rebellious behavior,” she explained in an op-ed for The Washington Post this week. “Unfortunately, they fell for the misleading marketing of the ‘troubled teen industry’ — therapeutic boarding schools, military-style boot camps, juvenile justice facilities, behavior modification programs and other facilities that generate roughly $50 billion annually in part by pitching ‘tough love’ as the answer to problematic behavior.”

Hilton said she was sent to four different facilities where she was “physically and psychologically abused.” 

“I was strangled, slapped across the face, watched in the shower by male staff, called vulgar names, forced to take medication without a diagnosis, not given a proper education, thrown into solitary confinement in a room covered in scratch marks and smeared in blood and so much more,” she explained during the press conference. 

“At Provo Canyon School in Utah, I was given clothes with a number on the tag. I was no longer me, I was only number 127,” she continued. “I was forced to stay indoors for 11 months straight, no sunlight, no fresh air. These were considered privileges.”

Goals of the  Accountability for Congregate Care Act

Hilton claims that a lack of transparency and accountability has allowed this structure of abuse to thrive for decades. In some cases, she said it has taken children’s lives. Now, she wants Congress and President Joe Biden to act. 

“This bill creates an urgently needed bill of rights to ensure that every child placed into congregate care facilities is provided a safe and humane environment,” Hilton said of the Accountability for Congregate Care Act.

“This bill of rights provides protections that I wasn’t afforded, like access to education, to the outdoors, freedom from abusive treatment, and even the basic right to move and speak freely. If I had these rights and could have exercised them, I would have been saved from over 20 years of trauma and severe PTSD.” 

Foster children, children being treated for mental disorders, and other children in youth programs would be impacted by the bill.

Hilton was one of several survivors and advocates who fought for the legislation on Wednesday. Rep. Khanna thanked them for using their stories to fight for change. 

“No child should be subjected to solitary confinement, forced labor, or any form of institutional abuse,” he wrote. “Thanks to Paris Hilton, my colleagues & the survivors & advocates who joined us today to discuss how we can hold the congregate care industry accountable.”

While only Democratic legislators are currently sponsoring the bill, Hilton called for a bipartisan effort to fight for the rights of children. 

Ensuring that children are safe from institutional abuse isn’t a Republican or Democratic issue,” Hilton said. “It’s a basic human rights issue that requires immediate attention.”

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The Hill) (NBC News)

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Surgeons Successfully Test Pig Kidney Transplant on a Human

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The procedure has been hailed as a major scientific breakthrough that could eventually open the door to a renewable source of desperately needed organs.


Groundbreaking Procedure

Surgeons at the NYU Langone Transplant Institute revealed Tuesday that they temporarily attached a kidney from a genetically modified pig to a human patient and found that it worked normally.

The operation was the first of its kind and could one day lead to a vast supply of organs for those who are in severe need. According to the Associated Press, more than 90,000 people in the U.S. are in line for a kidney transplant. Each day, an average of 12 die while waiting.

With the family’s consent, the groundbreaking procedure was performed on a brain-dead patient who was kept alive on a ventilator.

According to the surgeons, the pig used was genetically engineered to grow an organ that wouldn’t produce a sugar that the human immune system attacks, which would then trigger the body to reject the kidney. 

The organ was connected to blood vessels on the patient’s upper leg, outside the abdomen, and it was observed for over 54 hours, with doctors finding no signs of rejection.

Concerns and Hurdles Ahead

While the procedure was successful, this doesn’t mean it’ll be available to patients anytime soon. Several questions about long-term functionality remain, and it will still have to go through significant medical and regulatory hurdles. 

Details of the procedure haven’t even been peer-reviewed or published in a medical journal yet, though there are plans for this. 

Experts are also considering the ethical implications of this type of animal-to-human transplant. For some, raising pigs to harvest their organs raises concerns about animal welfare and exploitation. Such medical procedures have already earned criticism from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA.

“Pigs aren’t spare parts and should never be used as such just because humans are too self-centered to donate their bodies to patients desperate for organ transplants,” PETA said in a statement, according to The New York Times.

On the other side of the debate are people like Dr. Robert Montgomery, the director of the N.Y.U. Langone Transplant Institute who performed the breakthrough procedure in September.

“I certainly understand the concern and what I would say is that currently about 40% of patients who are waiting for a transplant die before they receive one,” he told BBC.

“We use pigs as a source of food, we use pigs for medicinal uses – for valves, for medication. I think it’s not that different.”

See what others are saying: (CNN)(BBC) (The New York Times)

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