The US Postal Service is one of many agencies hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.
The USPS is independent from the federal government, so it isn't funded by taxpayer dollars. It relies on revenue from things like stamps and first-class mail. While package deliveries are up, mail volume is reportedly down by almost a third compared to this time last year. Businesses and people around the country have made cuts to mail advertisements, solicitations, and letters. And as a result, the USPS's revenue is tumbling down as it projects $22 billion in new revenue losses over the next 18 months.
The Postal Service has been on a steady decline in recent years and is already billions of dollars in debt. This is in part due to 2006 legislation requiring the agency to pre-fund employees' future retirement benefits. Plus technology has made it easier for people to communicate without having to send mail. So the pandemic has only added to an already existing hardship. Although the USPS reportedly hasn't gotten federal funding in decades, it's warning that it could run out of cash by September without an assist from the gov.
It has, to an extent. Last month's historic $2.2 trillion aid package included a $10 billion loan for the USPS. But one lawmaker has said the agency "needs debt forgiveness, not debt extension." President Trump says it should focus on jacking up delivery prices for online retailers like Amazon to help bring in money. Meanwhile, the public is reportedly offering a helping hand by buying stamps online and posting #SaveUSPS on social media to show their support.
Lawmakers say the Postal Service could go out of service without gov help. And since the agency delivers to every single person in the US, the entire country would be affected. It works to get Americans things like the census, life-saving medications, and other vital goods and services. It'll also be delivering stimulus checks to millions of Americans. And it could play an important role in this year's presidential election when voting by mail is expected to increase.
Throughout its nearly five-decade history, the USPS has been a critical part of the country's infrastructure. Its potential downfall not only affects more than 600,000 USPS employees, but it could complicate Americans' access to resources that impact everything from their health to politics.
Yesterday, the Commerce Department said retail sales dropped 8.7% last month. It's the largest drop since the department started tracking this data nearly 30 years ago. That number is unprecedented. Especially since consumer spending drives two-thirds of the US economy.
As people start to receive their stimulus checks this week, many will put that money toward bills, rent, and food. And even though grocery stores and online retailers have seen a boost in spending, it hasn't made up for the losses triggered by things like stay-at-home orders that have shuttered businesses.
Retail is reportedly the second-largest industry in the US (behind health care), making up more than one in 10 jobs. Unemployment numbers are already at a record high, and the latest retail drop could create a domino effect beyond compare.
Psst...COVID-19 is clearly affecting the economy. And has put millions out of work. Being suddenly unemployed can be scary...and a little confusing. If you're looking to learn more about unemployment benefits and what this means for the future, sign up for 'Unemployment, Skimm'd.'
MLB. About 10,000 employees from 27 baseball teams are taking part in the first and largest nationwide study for COVID-19 antibodies. Reminder: antibodies appear in our blood as our immune system's response to a virus. The participants include everyone from the players to team owners to stadium ushers. Here's how the study works: participants take a blood test by pricking their finger. It takes about 10 minutes for them to get their results. Then they let the lab know if they have or had the virus. The goal is to gather data on the spread and infection rate of COVID-19 throughout the US based on a nationwide sample.
Speeding things up: Doctors behind this study say this would usually take at least a year to conduct. But the MLB community gave them the "unique opportunity" to start the testing ASAP, and all data is expected to be collected by the end of this week.
Two different tests: There's been a lot of criticism around celebrities, athletes, and wealthy people getting what seems to be easy access to COVID-19 tests. Those are typically used in hospitals and doctors offices to determine if people have the virus when they're tested. But the MLB study is using a different kind of test, and won't take away kits from the frontlines.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA). Yesterday, she endorsed former VP Joe Biden in the race for the 2020 presidency. She's the latest of Biden's former rivals to do so, and the third high-profile endorsement for the former VP this week. Her announcement came amid talk about the importance of a unified Democratic Party – and this move could push progressive voters to support Biden.
Don't forget about this Apple. It's rolling out a budget phone for $399, making it Apple's cheapest iPhone on the market. The iPhone SE looks like an iPhone 8, but has similar features to the iPhone 11. And it's said to have "the best single-camera system ever." Some analysts think this is a smart move to attract more customers amid an uncertain economy. And that it helps Apple better compete with Google and Samsung, which already offer cheaper phones. Phone pre-sales start tomorrow, and phones are expected to be shipped out next week.
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Jul 31 | Election Day is still on for November 3rd.
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Aug 19 | The US Postal Service is suspending its controversial changes.