Local Services Matter

August 21, 2020
Weekly Column

The last several months continue to serve as a reminder of services critical to all Americans. Two of those services have been on the forefront of my mind recently: The United States Postal Service and local newspapers.

Each are important for different reasons – the USPS plays a vital role in delivering medications and other essential goods, and our local newspapers work day in and day out to keep South Dakotans informed of what’s happening both locally and nationally. 

In recent weeks, there has been a lot of discussion about the postal service. I want to make one thing clear – I’m a strong supporter of our post offices. I’ve signed onto legislation that would prevent any action to privatize the postal service and supported a resolution stating the USPS should take all appropriate measures to ensure a 6-day mail delivery service. Earlier, this year I voted in favor of a $10 billion loan to the USPS through the CARES Act. 

The reality is, however, the postal service has been in trouble for a number of years, and has lost money for the last 13 years. Last year USPS lost almost $9 billion. Congress needs to prioritize ways to fix it, but I’m wary about any drastic changes in service so close to the presidential election and during a pandemic. I do support additional funds being given to the postal service, but it shouldn’t be a blank check, especially considering its revenues are up this year. Congress needs to do more than just throw money at the problem – that’s a cop out Congress utilizes far too often. I’m confident we can maintain a strong postal service even during a pandemic. 

Like most industries, local media hasn’t been immune from the financial impact of COVID-19. A slowdown of advertisements and subsequent layoffs continue to threaten our ability to maintain a free press. A free and vibrant press is a necessity for our democracy, which is why along with my Democrat colleague Rep. Collin Peterson, I introduced the Preserving Readership and Information of Newspapers for Tomorrow (PRINT) Act this week. 

The PRINT Act would make the cost of print production of local print media eligible for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) much like rent and salaries are included in the program as it is right now. Currently, local media is eligible for the PPP, but printing costs are not forgivable under the program guidelines. This bill will help alleviate some of the burden our print shops are facing.

As Congress continues to debate Coronavirus relief for communities and industries across our nation, we need to keep in mind that local services matter. I’ll continue to remind my colleagues of the importance of these services as I head back to Washington this week. 

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