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Hoping To Save The Postal Service, People Rush To Buy Stamps

U.S. Postal Service trucks are lined up in Miami Beach, Fla. The agency says that without emergency funding from Congress, it could run out of money within months.
Lynne Sladky
U.S. Postal Service trucks are lined up in Miami Beach, Fla. The agency says that without emergency funding from Congress, it could run out of money within months.

Thousands have taken to social media the last few days in support of the U.S. Postal Service. With the agency in financial troubleduring the coronavirus crisis, Twitter users are urging others to buy stamps as a lifeline for the beleaguered agency.

Since the crisis began, the Postal Service's business has tanked. Mail volume has decreased by nearly a third,and the agency is projecting a $13 billion shortfall for the year. As a result, the Postal Service is asking lawmakers for as much as $89 billion in cash infusions to weather the financial storm.

But President Trump is opposed. According to The Washington Post, the president threatened to vetothe $2 trillion coronavirus aid package, or the CARES Act, if it provided funds to bail out the postal agency.

That upset some people, like Bill Prady, who says the U.S. Postal Service helped launch his television career.

Prady's first writing gig was the script for an appearance by the Muppet character Rowlf the Dog at a Postal Service press conference about dog bites.

He went on to write for popular broadcast sitcoms and created The Big Bang Theory.

"In a sense, I can credit my entire career to them [the Postal Service] and that moment, so this could be a way of paying them back," said Prady.

Jenna Dewar, a professor at the University of Nevada, Reno, was also taken aback when she heard the news about the Postal Service.

"I immediately just kind of had my jaw dropped to the floor because it's such a fundamental service to the community," said Dewar. "There are many other things that you would think would [disappear] before that, and so it was kind of just a shocking moment to hear something that's written into our Constitution might be going away."

So she went online to order stamps from the USPS website on Monday. But for the next few hours, the page wouldn't load. She figured the site got overwhelmed by the volume of orders.

Later that day, Dewar got through to the site's order page and was able to purchase a sheet of heart stamps.

Derek Bauman said he bought as many stamps as he could, purchasing a few extra sheets of the JFK-themed ones. Bauman, a retired police officer who lives in Cincinnati, used to collect stamps as a kid.

His primary concern is that if the Postal Service gets slashed or goes under, then people in hard-to-reach areas may not be able to send and receive mail as easily.

"The ability to send and receive mail to every single address in the United States — I just don't know that the private sector would be willing or able to do that in an affordable way," he said.

Bauman says that he's been happy to see the support on social media for the Postal Service.

"I guess the the positive takeaway from it is that you see an outpouring of support for the post office from the American people," said Bauman. "I think that speaks volumes."

Prady sees getting people to buy stamps as a rare moment of positive action in a pandemic that has otherwise made him feel somewhat "helpless."

"Most of us are just sort of trapped in our houses, but this was a really simple thing," Prady said. "The post office is short on money, and there's an amazingly easy way to get money to the post office: buy stamps. If you take all the adults in America, and if all of them bought $10 worth of postage, you're in the billions."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Austin Horn is a 2019-2020 Kroc Fellow. He joined NPR after internships at the San Antonio Express-News and Frankfort State-Journal, as well as a couple stints in the service industry. He aims to keep his reporting grounded in the experience of real individuals of all stripes.