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Postmaster general to answer questions about delays, proposed price hikes for Postal Service

USPS is saddled with billions of dollars in losses, an aging vehicle fleet and a workforce hit hard by COVID-19.

WASHINGTON — Postmaster General Louis DeJoy is likely to face aggressive questioning from members of Congress when he appears before a House of Representatives committee hearing Wednesday. DeJoy is scheduled to appear before the House Committee on Oversight and Reform six months to the day after his last appearance on August 24, 2020.

"Through gross incompetence, you have ended the 240-year history of delivering the mail reliably on time," Rep. Steven Lynch (D-MA) scolded during that hearing.  

This time around, DeJoy is likely to face pressing questions about the Postal Service's intentions to raise prices. 

"Impending rate increases that are going to put a huge squeeze on a lot of businesses, especially small ones that can't afford it," Art Sackler, executive director of the Coalition for a 21st Century Postal Service, said. 

RELATED: USPS raising some rates in 2021 but not the Forever Stamp

Sackler said the Postal Regulatory Commission has already signed off on a rule change that would allow USPS to increase prices greater than the rate of inflation. The next step would be the Postal Service Board of Governors announcing its intent to do just that, followed by a period of public comment before a vote would solidify the rate increases. 

Barring impediments, those increases could begin as early as July 2021. Rates could rise as much as 7.5%, Sackler said. 

In April 2020, Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA) told WUSA9 anchor Adam Longo that the Postal Service was going broke. It needed an emergency cash infusion that was included in the second stimulus bill that had passed Congress, but Connolly said President Trump personally objected to that boost for the Postal Service. 

RELATED: Late arrival: Data shows around 40% of first-class mail arrived on time in DMV in late December

Longo asked President Trump about Connolly's accusation he was forcing the Postal Service into demise, via proxy at a White House briefing in April 2020.  

"I'm the reason the Postal Service," Trump began. "The Postal Service has lost billions of dollars every year for many years. I'm the demise? This is a new one."

Trump was correct that the Postal Service has indeed lost billions of dollars "for many years." But the reason is not because of package deliveries from Amazon as Trump falsely claimed on a number of occasions.

An act of Congress in 2006 is the direct reason for USPS losses. That act forced the agency to fully pre-fund retiree health and pension benefits. Essentially, when you pay $11 for a book of stamps, a good chunk of that money goes into an account for employees instead of being invested back into the post office itself.

RELATED: Postmaster DeJoy and wife pay DC for several years of underpaying DC property taxes

No other federal agency or private company in America does that. Most pay a little bit every year that goes towards an employee's retirement benefits; they don't pay it all up front.

Sackler said there's as much as $111 billion in those employee retirement accounts.

"What we want is that huge amount of money to come back to the Postal Service," Sackler said. "That'd be the number one thing I'd suggest to the president if he ever called me."

Northern Virginia Congressman Gerry Connolly sits on the House Oversight Committee and he feels DeJoy is toxic to the Postal Service. 

"[The Postal Service] affects every household and every business in America every day," Connolly said. "Postmaster General Louis DeJoy is not qualified for the job. He is a political hack. A crony. A Republican donor. A friend of Trump."

Rep. Connolly is calling on President Biden to fire all six members of the Postal Board of Governors. That group selects the postmaster general, not the president. Whether President Biden will follow through with that request or simply nominates three governors for the current vacancies on the Board is unknown. 

Tuesday afternoon, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki answered a question from WUSA9 (by proxy) about when the president would take action.

"It is a priority for the president to announce the appointment of additional members of the Board of Governors," Psaki said. "It's really up to the Board of Governors to determine the future leadership of the Postal Service. We certainly recognize that filling those vacancies is an important step in that process. So it's a priority I don't have a timeline of when those will be announced."

RELATED: 'You're inviting crime' | Union leaders say new USPS policy puts letter carriers in danger

Nominees to the Postal Board of Governors need to be approved by the Senate, so in order to neutralize potential rate increases, the president would need to act quickly, according to Sackler.  

Rep. Connolly chairs the Government Operations subcommittee which has oversight of the Postal Service. 

"I'm more than upset with my colleagues in the Congress who talk a good game about, oh, we support the Postal Service, but they haven't invested a dime after $4 trillion of investment in pandemic relief measures," Connolly said. 

Another massive expense dragging USPS deeper into turmoil is its vehicles. 

"The average age of their trucks and vehicles is 25 years plus," Connolly said. "What could go wrong with a 25-year-old vehicle?" 

USPS has delayed an announcement on awarding a contract for new vehicle purchases. Multiple reports indicate the fleet could be replaced with electric vehicles. 

Connolly said the USPS fleet of vehicles is the largest in the nation.  

WATCH: Postmaster DeJoy's last testimony on Aug. 24, 2020. 

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