Why the counterintuitive result? It’s likely because many Americans feel a personal connection to the USPS; they rely on it daily for basic needs. Let’s not forget that U.S. protests last summer got many postal boxes returned and some sorting machine removal stopped. And with the coronavirus pandemic, people and businesses likely depend even more on the USPS now: package volume increased nearly 20 percent in 2020compared to 2019.
This suggests people know the USPS is an essential service to them. However, it may be even more essential than they realize. It is, in fact, the only mail and package delivery system that has a universal obligation to provide service to every delivery point in the United States, regardless of profitability. The USPS plays a central role in smaller and rural communities, where it often serves as an information hub, not just the sole postal center.
And the Postal Service continues to play an important role in “last-mile deliveries”—deliveries in which private courier services—like UPS and Amazon—contract with the USPS to deliver packages or items to a location beyond that courier’s delivery network where it is more cost-effective to use the USPS delivery network.
The USPS is also essential to public safety. A 2008 RAND study concluded from an analysis of such last-mile deliveries that the USPS’s safety and security screening was likely better than that of the originating private companies. Also, following major hurricanes, the Postal Service has been critical in helping identify those neighborhoods and rural areas hard hit by these disasters and relaying that information to federal and local responders. The USPS is identified as a support agency for eight of the fifteen Emergency Support Functions in the National Response Framework, which specifies how the nation responds to all types of disasters and emergencies. For example, the USPS is tasked with helping to distribute and transport medicine, pharmaceuticals, and medical information to those affected by a major disaster or emergency.