A shakeup at the US Postal Service is raising major flags.
The Postal Service has been dealing with money woes for years. And the coronavirus pandemic has only made it worse – driving it billions of dollars further into debt. Last month, newly appointed Postmaster General Louis DeJoy announced major changes aimed at giving the org a financial boost. Think: no overtime and reduced hours – even if it means leaving mail behind. He also reorganized the USPS, and nearly two dozen execs were reassigned or displaced. All this has some very worried about November.
Because millions of Americans could be casting their ballots for the presidential election by mail. Postal Union leaders say the changes have already led to backlogs of mail. In southern Maine alone, thousands of letters have reportedly been delayed. At least 18 other states have reported similar delays (see: this and this). A big problem since many ballots may be disqualified or not counted if they arrive too late. While lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have criticized the changes, some Democratic lawmakers say this is all about "sabotage."
They claim that DeJoy – who's been a top donor to President Trump and the RNC – is making it more difficult to vote by mail. And have pointed out the timeliness of the changes (read: in the middle of a pandemic when mail-in voting is expected to increase). Trump's repeatedly criticized voting by mail. But DeJoy said the changes are about making the USPS more efficient. He called the political accusations "wholly off-base" and said the org has "ample capacity" to deliver election mail securely and on time. But that's not enough for Dem leaders who are calling for a reversal of the changes.
It's unclear. Yesterday, the House Oversight and Reform Committee introduced legislation to block any changes that took effect this year, saying 'now's not the time.' But while that makes its way through Congress, there are steps you can take to make sure your vote (by mail) is counted. If you haven't already, register to vote. Then, request a ballot (if your state isn't automatically sending you one). And take note of your state's deadlines: in some cases, your ballot must be received before Election Day. Get informed on the issues. And finally, sign, seal, and deliver.
The US Postal Service plays an integral part in many Americans' lives, and it's expected to have an even bigger role this November because of the pandemic. These changes could make its job harder. So make sure you're prepared.
Belarus. Since Sunday, violent protests have erupted around the country following its presidential election. Officials said longtime incumbent President Alexander Lukashenko – who's ruled for 26 years and has been called "Europe's last dictator" – won reelection with 80% of the vote. But many believe the election was rigged. And have taken to the streets to show their anger. Protesters have been met with tear gas, batons, stun grenades, rubber bullets, and even live rounds of ammo from police. At least two people have died, 200 have been injured, and more than 6,000 people have been arrested. And the main opposition candidate – Svetlana Tikhanovskaya – has fled the country after an apparent threat to her family. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urged Belarusian authorities to protect the protesters. And a top EU official said it's considering sanctions against those responsible for the crackdown.
Unemployment benefits. Last week, President Trump signed an EO extending federal unemployment benefits by $400 per week amid the coronavirus pandemic. And required states to cover 25% of the cost ($100). But many states said they couldn't afford it. Now, the Trump admin is backing away from that requirement. Meaning millions of jobless Americans will only get $300 a week in extra pay – half of what Congress approved back in March. Meanwhile, Congress and the Trump admin appear no closer to a deal for more relief.
Skimm’d by Maria del Carmen Corpus, Mariza Smajlaj, Ellen Burke, Niven McCall-Mazza, Clem Robineau, and Julie Shain
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Jul 31 | Election Day is still on for November 3rd.
Sept 29 | The stage is set for the first presidential debate tonight.
Aug 19 | The US Postal Service is suspending its controversial changes.