Today, Lauren Ashcraft, a congressional candidate in New York’s 12th district, released her proposal for a PRE-PARED Act (Postal Restoration and Enhancement-Public banking and Refund Excess Downpayment Act). This proposal includes policy recommendations for how Congress and the White House should address the dire needs of the United States Postal Service (USPS) and the unbanked and underbanked individuals during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The United States Postal Service is a foundational public institution enumerated in Article I, Section 8, Clause 7 of the United States Constitution in order to facilitate interstate communication and perform a vital public service. Its rich history is part of why the USPS is considered the country’s most well-liked federal agency and one of the most trusted institutions of any kind when it comes to privacy. It is also the second largest employer in the country. Now, amidst a decline in demand for first-class and marketing mail due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the USPS is being threatened through its exclusion from bailout funds as a precondition for any stimulus bills Congress writes. The USPS also faces mounting pressure toward privatization, including prior legislation such as the Postal Reorganization Act of 1970 that has legally mandated the USPS to generate its revenue from its own services, and the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act which mandates that the USPS set aside money for all future retiree health benefits — without subsidy from the Treasury. This unique burden, which is not imposed upon any other government enterprise, is the chief cause of USPS’s financial woes.
Additionally, approximately 28% of the U. S. population or 93 million people lack access to trusted financial services. Unbanked and underbanked people are a mix of working and middle-class families, students, the unemployed, and others living paycheck-to-paycheck who have little-to-no access to banking services. Yet financial exclusion is disproportionately rampant among people of color and immigrants, and especially women within those groups. The utility of banking as a public service had already been recognized previously by opening accounts with as little as a dollar from 1911–1967.
Lauren Ashcraft’s Policy Recommendations Include:
- Issuing $89 billion in Congressional stimulus appropriations to be immediately disbursed to USPS to address the pandemic-induced crisis and previous undermining of the institution
- Repealing of the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act
- Amending the Postal Reorganization Act and placing the USPS back under Congressional purview
- Re-introducing a nationwide Public Postal Banking System that will provide individuals with several financial services such as prepaid debit cards, mobile transactions, new check cashing services, savings accounts, and access to credit. All provided in the same locations as postal services
We cannot allow another public institution to be further eroded through the privatization of the Postal Service. We must act to keep USPS operational, fully funded, and expand its role into providing financial services in the public interest through a postal banking system. Post offices can successfully be expanded to provide financial services. There are over 30,000 locations (by comparison, JPMorgan Chase has only 5,000 locations). Post offices are built like banks with heavy brick walls, steel screens, vaults, ATMs, and armored trucks. They are respected by the public and up to the task of serving the underbanked and unbanked.
Ashcraft said, “Representative Maloney waited fourteen years to change her mind after the 2005 HR 22 PAEA vote which led to the current turmoil the USPS now faces. I wrote a plan to clean up her mess.”
During an emergency such as the current pandemic a postal banking system would allow Congress to efficiently and rapidly deposit income to households and individuals as well as provide living wage accounts for public employment such as a federal jobs guarantee program. Lastly, the USPS would play an integral role as part of a new financial architecture that insulates the public and Main Street businesses from the volatility of high finance, financial bubbles, fraud, and predation.
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For more information, please read about Lauren’s issues and background at laurenashcraft.com.