This time of year the post office is one of the busiest places in the country. Families rely on the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) to connect with relatives and friends. Sending Christmas cards and gifts to loved ones is a time-honored tradition integral to how we celebrate the holiday season. Currently, timely delivery is already strained and now a new postal program will further complicate it by attempting to federalize financial services.
In September, USPS unilaterally launched limited check-cashing services in targeted urban areas. The agency likely overstepped its authority and Republican senators are demanding the agency show this action is lawful.
We know USPS needs to improve its services. However, expanding its mission while already facing significant challenges is irresponsible, especially considering the recent implementation of new procedures that will lead to delays and increase prices in an attempt to fix its own notoriously poor financial footing.
During the Obama administration, USPS agreed its core function is "delivery not banking." In 2018, a task force created to review and identify necessary postal reforms recommended avoiding expanding into new sectors like banking - and with good reason. This service is best suited for community banks.
Local financial institutions help propel economic growth and job creation by providing access to credit. These lenders understand needs in the areas they serve and offer opportunities for small businesses and families to secure vital funding. Expanding financial inclusion across the country is essential, especially across rural America, but the efforts championed by Democrats, including Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and USPS itself, to target these areas by converting the agency into a bank is ill-advised
Through the appropriations process, Democrats have proposed using $6 million of taxpayer money to start turning USPS into a bank under the misguided pretense this will fix its financial woes.
While supporters of postal banking suggest a lack of brick-and-mortar banks is a main factor preventing Americans from accessing financial services, these arguments ignore industry data. According to a 2019 Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) survey only 2.2 percent of unbanked households cited inconvenient bank locations as the No. 1 reason for not having a bank account.
I'm also concerned about exposing taxpayers to financial risk if a government-subsidized entity like USPS enters the consumer financial market. The U.S. financial system is highly-regulated, complex and operates under free-market principles. A public bank's deposits, if not provided access to FDIC deposit insurance, would be backed by the full faith and credit of the state or municipality that chartered it. This poses a substantial risk to taxpayers. In contrast, the FDIC Deposit Insurance Fund, which is fully funded by the regulated banking industry, pays out costs associated with community bank failures.
Safe banking requires specialized experience in underwriting and managing assets and liabilities, building and maintaining consumer privacy and data security systems, and complying with detailed regulatory standards and sound risk management -- all areas in which USPS has no expertise.
This initiative is an inefficient use of taxpayer dollars and would stifle private sector innovation. As Democrats and the Biden administration push to allow postal banking services, I will continue to oppose changes that open the door to these unsafe banking practices. Arkansans and hard-working Americans know USPS needs to focus on fixing its mail delivery services, not becoming a bank. If we have doubts about something as simple as our Christmas cards arriving on time, why should we trust it with our money?
John Boozman is the senior senator from Arkansas.