In Oversight Hearing, Pressley Calls for Postal Banking to Advance Racial and Economic Justice

February 25, 2021
Press Release
“If post offices offered financial services, such as money transfers, bill payment and check cashing, our nation would take a significant step toward closing the racial wealth gap.”

Video (YouTube)

 

WASHINGTON – In a House Oversight Committee hearing yesterday, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (MA-07) discussed how postal banking would help the United States Postal Service (USPS) raise revenue while working to close the racial wealth gap.

Last week, Congresswoman Pressley sent a letter to President Biden urging him to remove Postmaster General Louis DeJoy and the entire USPS Board of Governors and appoint a diverse Board with the experience and skills needed to represent the public interest and restore the integrity of the USPS.

A full transcript of her exchange with witnesses is available below and a full video is available here.

Transcript: Pressley Calls for Postal Banking to Advance Racial and Economic Justice
House Committee on Oversight and Reform
February 24, 2021

REP. PRESSLEY: Madam Chair, thank you for convening today's hearing.

The United States Postal Service is one of our nation's greatest institutions and its public servants are courageous individuals on the frontlines of this ongoing pandemic. In the Massachusetts 7th, which I represent, nearly 3,000 postal workers across 38 facilities--shoutout to NALC Local 34--they're risking their health to deliver everything from life-saving medication to unemployment checks.

It's critical we enact legislation to bring stability to USPS and the lives of all of its employees.

But make no mistake, there is no legislative fix for the incompetent and failed leadership of Postmaster General DeJoy and the current Board of Governors. They've caused the postal workforce to suffer. They've caused delivery and critical services to be cut. And they have caused our communities great hurt.

These actions are a clear dereliction of duty and service to the American people, they demand accountability, which is why I've repeatedly called for the removal of Mr. DeJoy and the entire Board of Governors, and the appointment of a new, diverse board with the experience and skills needed to represent the public interest and to restore the public faith and integrity of the USPS.

The USPS needs leaders who respect the fundamental role the agency plays in our society, and Congress can leverage the resources, dedicated workers and infrastructure of the postal service to meet the agency's fiscal needs and to serve the broader American public.

Postal banking presents a unique opportunity to simultaneously increase revenue for the U.S. Postal Service while advancing economic justice.

An estimated one in four people in America are unbanked or underbanked, including 50% of Black and Latinx communities, resulting in thousands of dollars in fees and reliance on predatory check cashing services and payday loans. This burden disproportionately falls on communities of color. 60% of majority-Black census tracts do not have an active bank branch.

These banking deserts, however, do have post offices. If post offices offered financial services such as money transfers, bill payment and check cashing, our nation would take a significant step toward closing the racial wealth gap.

Mr. Dimondstein, can you provide any details on the history of postal banking in our country?

MR. DIMONDSTEIN: Well, for over 60 years, I can't remember the exact dates Congresswoman, I think 1911 to 1967 or so, there was actually a savings bank in the Postal Service. The Postal Service now provides financial services such as money orders, some types of check cashing. And we think, I completely agree with your comments around postal banking. We would like to start with the basic thrust of improved and enhanced and expanded financial services as a step that may get us someday to a public option on postal banking.

But the advantage of the steps is it's within the purview of the postal service itself. It will not take legislation to do those things. We think it'd be great for the people, the social justice issues you raised, and we think it'd be great for the postal service itself and the postal workers that we represent are ready to rock and roll.

REP. PRESSLEY: Thank you, Mr. Dimondstein. And could you further unpack and elaborate as to why the USPS is uniquely positioned to provide banking services to those who are unbanked and underbanked? And also, could you just answer is there support for postal banking among postal workers?

MR. DIMONDSTEIN: Yes, there's definitely support amongst postal workers for postal banking, for expanded financial services. People see it as an important service and an important part of our future. But your first question, Congresswoman, please again?

REP. PRESSLEY: How is the USPS uniquely positioned to provide these services?

MR. DIMONDSTEIN: Well, we're everywhere. We're in all these neighborhoods where banks have pulled out. We're trusted, we're trained. We're accountable. We're dedicated and 91% of the people in the country, through the entire political spectrum, support the Postal Service and trust postal workers. So we're in a great position to provide expanded services.

REP. PRESSLEY: Thank you. And there's so many who were eligible for stimulus relief during the pandemic but unable to access those funds because they are unbanked.

In a public report, the Office of the Inspector General concluded, "Financial services have been the single best new opportunity for post offices to earn additional revenue. For the Postal Service this might ultimately translate into $8.9 billion per year."

Ms. Whitcomb, how could providing financial services improve the financial footing of the USPS?

MS. WHITCOMB: Yes, the report that you cited we issued a while back and we did an analysis of the positioning of the postal service to provide financial services. And as you've stated, posts around the world are very active in the financial services industry. Many posts achieve significant financial benefits by providing financial services to the citizens in other countries. So we're happy---

REP. PRESSLEY: I'm so sorry. I'm running out of time. Reclaiming my time.

MS. WHITCOMB: We can discuss it further with Committee staff.

CHAIRWOMAN MALONEY: Time has expired.

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