The new USPS project began on Sept. 13 and is in partnership with the American Postal Workers Union. Anonymous sources to The Washington Post say postal officials intend to expand the program into more locations with services that may include ATMs and bill-paying products.
According to a survey by the FDIC in 2017, over 6% and 14.1 million Americans are unbanked or underbanked. And although those numbers have gone down over the years, they remain high in communities experiencing income inequality and systemic racism.
Next Advisor reports that Black and Latino households are about five times as likely to be unbanked compared to white households. And about 19% of households with an income of less than $30,000 are unbanked compared to 3.4% of households making over $30,000 per year. All of which leaves poor and communities of color vulnerable to paycheck-cashing stores and predatory lenders with bloated fees and interest rates.
If you’re wondering why so many people in underserved communities are unbanked or underbanked, just look at the monthly maintenance fees many banks charge. Monolithic institutions such as Bank of America, for example, charge $14 a month in fees for a checking account, which can only be waived by maintaining a monthly balance of $1,500 or more. Other impediments can be not having a valid ID or living in communities without a bank close by.
“We really think that the post office can save poor and working-class people a lot of money,” Causten Rodriguez-Wollerman, the deputy campaigns director at the American Civil Liberties Union, told the Post. “The post office and the federal government have an obligation to play their role where they have an opportunity to address the racial wealth gap. And this is an opportunity where they can do that.”
The new USPS business will force an uncomfortable relationship between DeJoy and one of his harshest critics, Sen. Kristen Gillibrand of New York. Gillibrand has called for the postmater general’s ouster, which frankly can’t come soon enough. As the Post reports, under DeJoy’s leadership, mail service has garnered $188.4 billion in liabilities and is expected to lose $160 billion in the next decade. Just last week, DeJoy’s “Delivering for America” aka the “slowdown plan,” was launched.
“The reason why they’re having difficulty delivering mail is because they are severely underfunded and under Postmaster DeJoy, he’s tried to slash funding even further and slash delivery days and slash availability and slash routes, close different centers around New York. I mean, he’s been a straight-up disaster,” Gillibrand said in an interview with the Post.