Rural South Dakotan shares concerns about potential delays, loss of postal service

KELOLAND.com Original
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This story has been updated to include a response from Sen. Mike Rounds, R-S.D., which was sent by email after the story had been published to the website on Friday, Aug. 14.

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — When he buys a stamp he’s establishing a contract with the U.S. Postal Service to deliver that letter or parcel on time and accurately, said Herreid resident Robert Thullner said.

The postal service, under directives from President Donald Trump, is threatening to breach that contract, Thullner said.

Trump did block emergency coronavirus pandemic funding to the postal service in April. According to the Associated Press, on Thursday, Aug. 13, on Fox News, Trump “frankly acknowledged that he’s starving the U.S. Postal Service of money to make it harder to process an expected surge of mail-in ballots, which he worries could cost him reelection.”

But, Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., said in an email response to KELOLAND News that the U.S. Postal Service and the U.S. Treasury Department reached an agreement on a $10 billion loan on July 29. The CARES Act relief money authorized the postal service to borrow up to $10 billion.

Rep. Dusty Johnson, R-S.D., said in an email that he supported the $10 billion.

“The entire delegation supported the financial assistance provided to the United States Postal Service (USPS) in the CARES Act,” Sen. Mike Rounds said in an email response to KELOLAND News.

But more than $10 billion will likely be needed as the postal service reported on Aug. 6 a $2.2 billion loss over three months.

The postal service has been struggling financially since at least 2006, several studies, including one from the Pew Institute, said.

Thune also pointed out the postal service financial struggles before COVID-19.

“That said, it still remains unclear as to how much of a revenue drop this crisis will ultimately have on the postal service’s bottom line,” Thune said in his email. “The postal service was struggling financially long before COVID-19.”

All three lawmakers said the postal service is an important service.

Thullner said the postal service has had financial problems before but this time, the threat of potential losses is far greater.

“Absolutely this is more of a real threat,” Thullner said. “We’re fighting for our life in rural (areas).”

Thullner, 76, is a retired farmer and rancher. He’s relied on the postal service for his business and personal mail for years. Now, he and his wife also use the postal service for delivery of medication.

“There is no pharmacy here,” Thullner said.

Herreid is about 100 miles south of Bismarck, North Dakota, and about 100 miles north of Pierre, he said.

His medication comes from North Dakota.

If the mail service isn’t properly funded or maintained, medication delivery could be delayed, Thullner said. What would that mean for someone who takes insulin, he asked.

Already, there are media reports of delays in mail delivery, Thullner said.

Congress has also shared concerns about delays in mail delivery, but the postmaster general has said the postal service was not slowing down delivery of election or other mail.

“I’ve always been a strong supporter of the postal service and recognize the vital role it plays in our rural communities, delivering medicines, newspapers and other essentials,” Johnson said.

Rounds, too, said, rural areas are of specific importance but he also cited the November election.

“Given the importance of the postal service, particularly in rural South Dakota and with the upcoming election, we are supportive of efforts by the USPS to become financially stable,” Rounds said.

While the postal service is important, there needs to be plan for its future, the lawmakers said.

“We need to ensure the postal service has a plan in place to preserve this important service far beyond the current crisis,” Thune said.

“We need to find a balance to ensure the postal service remains sustainable but affordable,” Johnson said.

Thullner said he spent part of Friday morning contacting he offices of Thune, Johnson, Sen. Mike Rounds, R-S.D., and Gov. Kristi Noem, to tell them of the importance of maintaining the U.S. Postal Service’s level of service.

He urges other South Dakota residents to contact the offices Thune, Rounds, Johnson, and Noem. Those who live in other states, should contact their U.S. lawmakers and governors, Thullner said.

Thullner said since delayed delivery and other problems would be a breach of contract, a class action lawsuit would be appropriate. He said he’d consider starting that option.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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