Mail processing and delivery will continue, and the Postal Service’s suppliers will get paid as usual, even if the federal Government shuts down on October 1, 2013. That’s because since 1971, the U.S. Postal Service generates its own revenues and does not rely on Congressional appropriations for daily operations. While mail delivery will continue, a Government shutdown would shutter the USPS Office of Inspector General, its Congressionally-funded watchdog. According to the OIG’s shutdown plan, it will retain only 19 of its 1193 employees during this period.
Applying for a passport at a Post Office could be impacted, as USPS performs this service for a fee paid by the Department of State. In April 2011, the last time a Government shutdown was threatened, the Postal Service advised that it would not process passport applications during a shutdown.
While mail delivery won’t be affected by a Government shutdown, it’s interesting to contemplate what would happen if mail service were discontinued during a shutdown. Even now, with First Class Mail volumes dropping dramatically due to electronic diversion, most people still receive their bills in the mail. That means consumer-oriented businesses would lose over half their revenue during an extended Government shutdown because they would not be able to get their bills in the hands of their customers. Mail order businesses and local businesses that rely on advertising mail would also be hurt, and subscribers wouldn’t get their magazines and newspapers. Even though the impact would be less severe now than in 1995-1996 – when we had a 21 day Government shutdown – it would still have a huge negative impact on the economy.
Want to avoid the next Government shutdown? Then bring the Postal Service back into the fold of Government-run agencies that must cease operations during a shutdown. Just look at the public outcry and angst in Congress caused by the Postal Service’s plans to close many rural post offices. And that would have only closed some lightly used facilities – it would not have reduced mail service to anyone. How many politicians would want to take the heat from constituents and businesses that would be negatively impacted by completely turning off the mail?