Its roots stretch back almost 250 years to the Second Continental Congress. Americans consistently rate it their favorite federal agency, and with a work force of more than half a million scattered across the country, it employs more people than any government entity outside the military.
But as Washington begins to battle over the next round of coronavirus relief funding, the United States Postal Service, for many the most familiar face of the federal government, has landed improbably at the center of one of the most bitter political disputes over who should be rescued, and at what cost.
The future of the mail may hang in the balance.
Postal leaders and their allies have made unusually blunt appeals for support in recent weeks, running advertisements on President Trump’s favorite Fox News programs and laying out an urgent account of how the pandemic has had a “devastating effect” on the U.S. mail service. Without a financial rescue from Congress, they have warned, an agency that normally runs without taxpayer funds could run out of cash as soon as late September, raising the specter of bankruptcy and an interruption in regular delivery for millions of Americans.