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How to Fix the Postal Service – The New York Times

October 1, 2020

Still, the Postal Service’s network reaches deep into isolated corners of the country, and some have proposed novel ways to leverage its extensive real estate footprint to provide more services, particularly in smaller communities.

A 2018 report overseen by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin suggested using post offices to help states process hunting and fishing licenses, akin to the way local branches already help process passport applications for the State Department.

Jim Sauber, the chief of staff at the National Association of Letter Carriers, said that because of its huge network of local post offices, the Postal Service is well positioned to do many other things, such as voter registration or helping census workers count people in remote areas that postal workers already visit regularly.

“We could do contact tracing for local public health authorities who needed help during the pandemic outbreak,” he said. “Our members know their neighborhoods perfectly; they know how to track people down, they know where they live.”

The Postal Service is barred from delivering alcoholic beverages, according to Prohibition-era restrictions that do not apply to its competitors and have prevented it from capitalizing on skyrocketing online alcohol sales throughout the pandemic. A bill, sponsored by Representative Jackie Speier, Democrat of California, was introduced last year and would overturn the restriction.

From time to time, the Postal Service has also explored reintroducing postal banking, allowing post offices to offer basic financial services like savings accounts and check cashing. France, China and Japan all have modern postal banking systems, and the United States once did as well. Its postal savings system, established in 1910, supported more than four million depositors and held nearly $3.4 billion in savings at its peak in 1947.

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The U.S. Postal Savings System was ended in 1967, but a number of politicians, including two Democrats, Senators Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, have called for its revival as a way to reduce the number of people without access to traditional banking — and who often turn to payday lenders and check-cashing outfits that set high interest rates and take sizable fees.

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