- The United States Postal Service fears it could run out of money by September if it does not receive federal aid. It has seen a 30% decline in mail volume over the last week and anticipates $13 billion in losses this year.
- While Democrats have tried to add funding to coronavirus bills for them, Trump has said he would not sign legislation that includes USPS funding.
- Trump has a contentious history with the USPS. Some of these tensions stem from his dislike for Amazon’s Jeff Bezos. Trump believes that USPS loses money delivering Amazon packages and should charge more.
- Republicans also are reluctant to give aid because they want to privatize USPS, which is the most favorable government agency amongst Americans.
USPS Requests Emergency Funding
As the United States Postal Service’s plea for money has been largely ignored or outright refused by Republicans, the disputed future of the agency has taken center stage.
After reporting a 30% decline in mail volume in the last week, USPS is asking lawmakers for $89 billion, according to the New York Times. Without financial help, it could run out of money by the end of September. The agency is predicting a $13 billion revenue loss this year.
While Democrats have worked to include funding for USPS in coronavirus relief and stimulus packages, there has been little interest from Republicans in including these measures. President Donald Trump has been equally closed off to it.
“We told them very clearly that the president was not going to sign the bill if [money for the Postal Service] was in it,” a Trump administration official told the Washington Post. “I don’t know if we used the v-bomb, but the president was not going to sign it, and we told them that.”
This has left the USPS with the option of taking out a $10 billion loan from the Treasury Department, which would not carry them as far and could cause longer-term problems for them.
Trump Vs. USPS. Vs. Amazon
Trump’s cold shoulder to USPS is nothing new. The president has long been vocal about his frustrations, many of which stem from its relationship with Amazon. Trump is not a fan of Amazon or its leader, Jeff Bezos, who also owns the Washington Post. He has documented this over the years on Twitter, calling USPS Amazon’s “delivery boy,” and saying USPS makes Amazon “richer” and themselves “dumber and poorer.”
Because of this, Trump wants USPS to charge Amazon more so it can churn a bigger profit off of the online shopping giant. This idea, however, has faced no shortage of criticism.
“Raising rates too much would lead private-sector competitors to develop their own cheaper methods to deliver packages,” Lori Rectanus, the director of physical infrastructure at the Government Accountability Office told the Post.
According to a New York Magazine piece from the end of 2019 said that raising prices with Amazon may not even benefit USPS. Trump has often stated that USPS loses $1.50 for every Amazon package it delivers, but writer Josh Barro claims that is a faulty number at best. Barro says that Trump is using a report from Citibank littered with mathematical errors, and that does not actually make that claim.
“Citi makes no convincing argument that the post office is losing money on Amazon,” Barro wrote.
“A rule forcing the post office to price packages higher, losing market share to private competitors, would lead to more unused capacity in the existing postal trucks, not to a right-sizing of the post office,” he added.
On top of Trump’s rift with Amazon, for a long time Republicans have wanted to fully privatize USPS. The agency has seen a consistent revenue decline for years, and conservative lawmakers see turning it into a business as a way to bring in more money.
Hunter Walker, the White House correspondent for Yahoo News, wrote that this pandemic could give Republicans their shot at privatizing it if they wanted. Ronnie Stutts, the president of the National Rural Letter Carriers Association told Yahoo that plans to get funding for the USPS in stimulus packages seemed promising “until they got to the White House.”
The Treasury Department and Trump want “to privatize postal service,” he added.
“There’s no two ways about it,” Stutts told Yahoo. “And when it got there, he killed it. They said no. He was not going to give us any money.”
Privatizing USPS would likely come with consequences. They would no longer have to fulfill the obligation of delivering mail anywhere throughout the country at an equal rate, something that would largely impact rural areas.
Public Favorability for USPS
USPS saw a lot of support online over the weekend, with people using #SaveThePostOffice to encourage people to buy stamps and give the service revenue during this crisis. USPS gets no taxpayer money and only profits off of the services it provides, making it even more vulnerable during this time.
Despite these efforts to put the post office at risk, the public actually has a favorable opinion of the agency, which is established in the United States constitution. According to a 2019 poll from Pew, it is the most favorable government agency in the, getting a 90% approval rating. This is even higher than the National Parks Service and NASA.
See what others are saying: (Business Insider) (Vox) (Vanity Fair)
Mother and Boyfriend Charged After Abandoning 3 Children in Apartment With Sibling’s Remains
Authorities said the malnourished children had been living in the unit without their parents for months.
Abandoned Children Discovered in Houston
Police in Texas arrested a mother and her boyfriend on Tuesday after finding the woman’s three children abandoned in an apartment unit with the remains of their sibling.
Authorities found the 7-, 10-, and 15-year-old boys on Sunday when the teen called police to report that his brother had been dead for a year and that his body was in the unit.
When authorities arrived at the scene, they found the children living in “deplorable conditions.” Police also found the skeletal remains of an 8-year-old, who they emphasized had been decomposing for an extended period of time.
Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said the boys were fending for each other, with the eldest doing his best to care for the younger ones. According to the teen, his parents hadn’t been living in the apartment with them for months.
Gonzales called it one of the most shocking cases he had ever seen in all his years in law enforcement, and many are now asking how these kids could have been suffering for so long without anyone ever noticing.
Signs That Went Unnoticed
The Daily Beast reported that the kids hadn’t been attending school since May 2020, claiming that the school even conducted an unsuccessful home visit in September of that year.
On top of that, the children had been without power for several weeks, with one neighbor telling local reporters that the teen would often charge his phone at her place.
Another neighbor, Erica Chapman, said she had once found the teen sleeping on a playground slide, so she gave him some food and drinks.
“I asked him if he was hungry. He said, ‘Yeah,’ and I brought him out some food and some drinks,” Chapman told KHOU.
She said he “wouldn’t talk about his parents,” and she didn’t push because she wanted him to feel safe coming to her if he needed food. Chapman added that she would drop off food at the apartment sometimes but said it was hard to tell what was going on inside.
Police also described a foul odor coming from the unit, which a different neighbor said she complained to management about more than once. That woman claimed the smell was so vile, she could not turn on her air conditioning.
Dianne Davis, who lived in the complex for two years, told The Houston Chronicle that the building manager performs regular inspections on the units, with the most recent one happening last week.
“How come they couldn’t detect this?” Davis told the paper. “How could that not have been found?”
Mother and Boyfriend Face Charges
According to Child Protective Services (CPS), the agency does have a history with the family, but there was no active investigation at the time the kids were discovered.
After they were found, the boys were treated at a hospital and placed with CPS while the agency seeks emergency custody of them.
At the hospital, doctors discovered fractures in the 7-year-old face and said two of the three boys were malnourished. Meanwhile, the medical examiner’s office said the deceased child suffered multiple blunt force injuries and ruled his death a homicide.
Police located the mother, 35-year-old Gloria Williams, and her boyfriend, 31-year-old Brian Coulter, on Sunday. They were interviewed and initially released without charges.
ABC13 reported that the teen texted his mother, who lived just 15 minutes, before calling the police.
On Tuesday, the couple was finally arrested while allegedly reading articles about themselves at a library. Williams, faces multiple charges, including injury to a child by omission and tampering with evidence involving a human corpse.
Meanwhile, Coulter was charged with murder over the death of the child, though both he and Williams are expected to face more charges as investigators continue to unpack the details of this case.
See what others are saying: (The Houston Chronicle) (The Daily Beast) (The Washington Post)
Man Spent COVID Relief Loan on $58,000 Pokemon Card, Feds Say
The man is facing a wire fraud charge, which carries a max sentence of up to 20 years in federal prison, along with a $250,000 fine.
COVID Relief Funds Used on Pokemon Card
Authorities have accused a man in Georgia of misusing COVID-19 relief funds, claiming that he spent $57,789 on a single Pokemon card.
Prosecutors said Vinath Oudomsine made false statements about the gross revenue his business earns and the number of workers he employs when he applied for aid authorized under the CARES Act.
On his July 2020 application, Oudomsine allegedly claimed he had 10 employees and 12-month gross revenues of $235,000.
The following month, he was given about $85,000 from the Small Business Administration (SBA), which means he spent nearly all of the money on the rare card.
Authorities have given few details about the specific card purchased, though they have said Oudomsine was charged with wire fraud and is expected to appear in court on Thursday.
The charge carries a max sentence of up to 20 years in federal prison, along with a $250,000 fine.
Misuse of COVID Relief Funds
Oudomsine is far from the first person to face charges for fraud related to small business loans issued amid the pandemic. Others who received relief funds have been accused of spending the money on Lamborghinis, nights at strip clubs, and even an alpaca farm, among other purchases.
In fact, the first person to be charged with fraudulently seeking a pandemic relief loan was recently sentenced to 56 months in prison following a nationwide search after the man faked his own death.
According to The Washington Post, a federal watchdog said this month that the SBA overpaid $4.5 billion in grants to self-employed people and that “no system of controls was in place to flag applications with flawed or illogical information.”
On top of that, the SBA inspector general determined earlier this year that the agency rushed to send out billions of dollars in loans through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) “at the expense of controls” that could have blocked inappropriate aid.
In a statement on Sunday, the agency said that under the Biden administration, it has worked with Congress and the inspector general to add antifraud measures. Meanwhile, defenders of pandemic relief programs have argued that flagged loans and grants represent only a small fraction of the distributed aid that has been critical to small businesses and their pandemic recovery.
See what others are saying: (NPR)(USA Today)(The Washington Post)
FDA Authorizes Moderna and J&J COVID Vaccine Boosters, Approves Mix-and-Match Doses
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.