Opinion

Delivering Through Crisis: Neither Snow nor Rain, nor Global Pandemic

By John McHugh
March 30, 2020 at 5:00 am ET

The United States Postal Service provides reliable access to delivery services for millions of Americans. Congress was right to recognize the important role that the Postal Service plays as part of the nation’s economic infrastructure in the most recent COVID-19 relief package.

“Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.” 

In 1914, what has become the unofficial motto of the United States Postal Service was chiseled in granite at the entrance of the New York City General Post Office. Since then, that powerful credo has been synonymous with the grit and deliver against-all-odds attitude upheld by the agency.

The critical role of the postal system in connecting Americans via affordable and reliable mail and package delivery system is needed now more than ever. The Postal Service is rising to the challenge. The Postal Service today is on the front lines of the COVID-19 emergency relief effort, delivering medicine, e-commerce products, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention pamphlets, and personnel and business correspondence to keep America moving.

In the near term, the postal system may play a critical role in distributing testing kits, stimulus checks, and absentee ballots as American’s across this country weather the challenges of the current crisis. Fortunately, guidelines issued by the CDC and the World Health Organization confirm that mail and package deliveries do not pose a significant risk for transmission of the COVID-19 virus.

The relief law that was just passed includes additional borrowing authority for the Postal Service for COVID-19 related expenses. This is necessary and appropriate.

The reliable delivery of mail and packages is a critical element of our nation’s economic infrastructure, allowing seniors to continue to receive their social security checks, prescription medicines and vitamins, as well as enabling families spread out across state lines to stay connected and e-commerce companies to still deliver goods to consumers.

Since many non-essential businesses are closed and consumers are increasingly moving their purchasing power online, e-commerce continues to play a critical role in the economy. Businesses of all sizes have been able to shift their product transactions almost exclusively to package delivery carriers, with many relying on the Postal Service to get their products to the doorsteps of Americans all over the country. As the only carrier that delivers to every single address, even private carriers like Fedex and UPS rely on USPS to get products across the last mile.

To prevent the spread of the virus, many Americans are actively avoiding the pharmacy or even their health care providers unless extremely necessary, yet millions of Americans still suffer from other health conditions and require prescriptions and other medical products. USPS is playing an increasingly critical role in ensuring people can access the medicines and other medical supplies they need. This is especially important for elderly Americans, who are encouraged to stay at home, and for those in rural areas, where health care services are often least accessible.

The Postal Service provides an essential service in good times. It’s importance is magnified in this time of crisis. The strength and resilience of our nationwide mail and package delivery system is a national asset. The Postal Service delivered in wake of the 9/11 attacks and will deliver to American’s through the current crisis and beyond.

I want to close with a note of gratitude and appreciation for all of those on the front lines of the emergency response effort. There are too many heroes to name, but among them are those working to ensure that all of us receive the mail and packages we need to keep our economy moving and to sustain us in this time of crisis.

John M. McHugh is a former Secretary of the U.S. Army and member of the U.S. House of Representatives representing upstate New York; he serves as chairman of the Package Coalition.

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