BOSTON – Today, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (MA-07), in partnership with Representatives Stephen F. Lynch (MA-08) and Jamie Raskin (MD-08), led their colleagues in calling for the extension of an American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) provision that made it easier for postal workers who contract COVID on the job to receive federal workers compensation. In a letter to Congressional appropriators, the lawmakers called for the provision—which is set to expire next month—to be extended as part of the omnibus government spending package.
“As Congress continues to undertake efforts to advance health equity, it is imperative that postal employees receive nothing short of the robust support they deserve when recovering from illness,” the lawmakers wrote in their letter. “This critical protection provides America’s postal workers with the resources they need to safeguard their own health and safety and ensure the continuation of timely, reliable, and efficient mail services for the American people.”
Prior to the enactment of ARPA in March of 2021, postal and other federal workers were required to submit onerous proof that they contracted COVID-19 on the job and could not have otherwise contracted the illness in the course of their daily personal lives. The enactment of ARPA temporarily removed this burden, facilitating the ability of postal and other federal workers diagnosed with COVID-19 to receive coverage under the Federal Employees’ Compensation Act (FECA). Specifically, the law established a presumption of FECA coverage for federal employees that received a positive COVID-19 diagnosis and recently carried out job duties requiring contact with members of the public, co-workers, or patients.
“This immense and inequitable burden of proof resulted in invasive questioning and the denial of nearly half of all workers’ compensation claims,” the lawmakers continued. “In stark contrast, implementation of the [ARPA provision] has decreased denial rates for USPS employees to less than three percent.”
COVID-19 cases nationwide continue to pose a great health risk for the 650,000+ postal clerks, mail handlers, letter carriers, and other postal workers on the frontlines, many of whom come from marginalized communities.
“We would also underscore that the Postal Service is one of the largest employers of veterans—with more than 100,000 employees having served in the military. The agency also retains a highly diverse workforce comprised of nearly 40 percent of Black and brown postal workers—many representing vulnerable communities whose health disparities across COVID-19 cases, treatments, and deaths have been well-documented,” the lawmakers continued.
Joining Reps. Pressley, Lynch and Raskin in sending the letter are Reps. Steve Cohen, Gerry Connolly, Brian Higgins, Carolyn Maloney, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Jan Schakowsky, Mike Thompson, Paul Tonko, Lori Trahan, and Brenda Lawrence.
The letter has been endorsed by the American Postal Workers Union (APWU), the National Rural Letter Carriers’ Association (NRLCA), and the National Postal Mail Handlers Union (NPMHU).
Find a copy of the letter here.
Throughout her time in Congress, Congresswoman Pressley has championed for federal resources to support the United States Postal Service and its employees.
- In February 2021, in a House Oversight Committee hearing, Rep. Pressley discussed how postal banking would help the United States Postal Service (USPS) raise revenue while working to close the racial wealth gap.
- Earlier that month, she sent a letter to President Biden today urging him to remove Postmaster General Louis DeJoy and the entire United States Postal Service (USPS) Board of Governors, and appoint a diverse Board with the experience and skills needed to represent the public interest and restore the integrity of the USPS.
- In August 2020, Congresswoman Pressley delivered remarks on the House floor in which she criticized the Trump Administration and Congressional Republicans for their attacks on the USPS, and shared stories of constituents from the Massachusetts 7th Congressional District who have been impacted by the operational changes imposed on the USPS by Postmaster General DeJoy.
- In August 2020, Rep. Pressley slammed GOP gaslighting and uplifted Massachusetts voices in a floor speech to support the Delivering for America Act to save USPS.
- Later that month, in a House Oversight Committee hearing, she questioned DeJoy and USPS Board of Governors Chairman Robert Duncan about the harmful impact the recent policy changes at the USPS have had on the workforce, and about the troubling history of anti-union labor practices of Mr. DeJoy’s former company, New Breed Logistics. In that hearing, she called on Mr. DeJoy to resign or be removed by the USPS Board of Governors immediately.
- In May 2020, Reps. Pressley and Lynch penned an op-ed in WBUR’s Cognoscenti urging Congress to take urgent action to support postal workers in the next COVID-19 relief package.