Legislation has recently been reintroduced in the House to allow the Postal Service to ship alcoholic beverages to consumers.
The USPS Shipping Equity Act (H.R. 2517) was introduced by Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-CA). She said the bill would end the Prohibition-era restriction that prohibits the Postal Service from shipping alcohol.
“In 2016, California was America’s top destination for the direct shipment of wine, yet consumers and manufacturers are prohibited from using the U.S. Postal Service to ship or deliver these everyday products,” Speier said.
“In most states, private carriers such as FedEx and UPS are already delivering alcoholic beverages. It makes no sense to create a competitive disadvantage for the USPS by barring them from these kinds of shipments, especially given the Postal Service’s dire financial condition. Congress needs to lift this ban for the benefit of beverage manufacturers, consumers, and our struggling postal service.”
A New Revenue Stream?
Part of the thinking behind the bill is it would give the Postal Service a new source of revenue to help bolster its deteriorating finances.
Speier noted in a press release on the bill that the market for shipping alcohol grew to $3 billion last year and she says it “continues to soar.” She says it would bring in “tens of millions of dollars” of new revenue for USPS.
While this may well be a growing market, and assuming the Postal Service could suddenly have access to it, it would be competing with UPS and FedEx, two companies who already are established in shipping alcohol, and grabbing a portion of $3 billion isn’t going to go very far in fixing an organization that routinely suffers annual losses in excess of that amount.
Last year, for instance, the Postal Service reported a net loss of $3.9 billion on the news that it had suffered 12 straight years of net losses. It reported a net loss of $1.5 billion in its latest fiscal quarter.
At least it’s a start.
Past Legislative Attempts to Allow Shipping Alcohol
This is not the first time Speier has made this effort. In fact, it’s not the third.
Her bill was last introduced in 2017 but failed to advance. It was also introduced in the two sessions of Congress prior to 2017. She obviously really wants to see the Postal Service start shipping alcohol, but there historically has been little interest in Congress to pass such a law. Maybe the fourth time is the charm?
In 2018, a broad Postal reform bill was introduced in the Senate that would have made a number of changes designed to turn around the ailing finances at the agency. In addition to proposing reforms to retiree benefits, such as mandatory Medicare, the bill would have allowed for shipping alcohol as a new revenue source. It also didn’t get very far in the legislative process.
There seems to be a consensus among lawmakers that the Postal Service is in trouble, but little by way of agreement on what must be done to fix it. Until that happens, it’s unlikely changes will happen anytime soon.