For all the talk about the issues that divide Americans, there are still institutions that tie this vast nation together, and the United States Postal Service is one of them. Besides delivering mail, you might be surprised at the things the USPS does for us.
To compile a list of 18 direct and indirect services the US Postal Service provides to Americans, 24/7 Tempo reviewed fact pages and other information on the official USPS website.
The USPS has connected Americans even before there was an America. The predecessor of our mail-delivery service was founded in 1775; Ben Franklin was its first postmaster general. (The USPS, an independent government agency, dates only from 1971, when it succeeded the U.S. Post Office Department.) You might be surprised at the age of the oldest post office in every state.
The agency is bound by what is called a universal service obligation. This requirement ensures that the USPS provides mail services to everyone, regardless of where they live, and for at least one mail product, at a uniform price. This is why you get mail six days a week.
Mostly self-funded, the USPS processes and delivers 167.3 million pieces of first-class mail every day, thanks to 74,000 letter carriers (who fended off 5,448 attacks from dogs in 2021; these are the cities where postal workers get attacked by dogs most often).
Besides delivering the mail, the USPS has law-enforcement responsibilities that include interdicting illegal drugs, protecting military veterans from scams, upholding the integrity of mail-in voting, and helping people copyright their work.
The USPS also is trying to set an example for moving into a more sustainable world by reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 25% by 2025.
Is one of the largest employers of veterans in the country
Military veterans trade one uniform for another when they join the United States Postal Service. The USPS is one of the largest civilian employers of U.S. military veterans, with about 68,000 former service people working for the agency. As a nod to our men and women in uniform, the USPS has issued more than 140 stamps honoring America’s military history.
Has made kids happy for more than a century
One of the most enduring holiday traditions is children sending letters to Santa Claus. In 1912, Postmaster General Frank Hitchcock authorized local postmasters to allow postal employees and citizens to answer letters addressed to Santa. This practice eventually evolved into the program Operation Santa. Over time, the USPS invited charitable organizations and corporations to participate for philanthropic purposes. In 2021, 4.3 million people visited USPSOperationSanta.com. Generous customers made the season magical for families and children by adopting 21,175 letters and shipping 21,443 packages.
Sets an example in using renewable energy
In 2021, the Postal Service recycled 277,994 tons of mixed paper, cardboard, plastic, metal, electronic equipment, and other items. The USPS has a solar-power generation system consisting of more than 25,755 solar panels at its Los Angeles mail-processing facility. The USPS has a goal of cutting energy used per square foot of building space by 25% by 2025.
Helps people copyright their work
The Postal Service has more than 500 copyright registrations. Many of these are to protect artwork on postage stamps.
Functions as a social network, helping people stay in touch
The United States Post Service has been a means of linking people together for almost 250 years, so you might call it the original social network. Even so, you can find the USPS represented on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and YouTube.
Keeps addresses up to date
The United States is a nation of more than 330 million people, and the USPS delivers mail to more than 163 million addresses in this country, so keeping those addresses up to date is a huge task. The USPS processed 36 million address changes in 2021, more than 20 million of them submitted online.
Provides generous benefits package
Every two weeks, the Postal Service pays its employees $2.15 billion in salaries and benefits.
Sets an example by embracing technology
The Postal Service is pushing ahead in optical character-recognition technology, with machines reading nearly 98% of all hand-addressed letters and 99.5% of machine-printed mail.
Keeps the mail safe
The U.S. Postal Inspection Service enforces federal laws and thwarts crimes to keep customers, employees, and the mail safe. The Inspection Service has about 2,400 employees, including nearly 1,300 postal inspectors, roughly 500 uniformed postal police officers, and 600 professional, technical, and administrative support personnel. Postal inspectors responded to and investigated 2,010 suspicious mail incidents in 2021.
Can help prevent drug distribution
Part of the USPS’ responsibilities is interdicting illicit drug packages. The Postal Service uses data, forensics, and tips from citizens to combat drug distribution. In the fiscal years 2017 to 2021, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service made 2,113 seizures of synthetic opioids – including 790 seizures (985 pounds’s worth) in fiscal 2021 alone.
Protects the integrity of the election process
There has been a surge in voting by mail in the United States in recent years. Election mail consists of mail to or from election officials. This includes ballots, ballot applications, and registration forms. During the 2020 general election, the USPS said it delivered ballots from election officials to voters in an average of 2.1 days and ballots from voters to election officials in an average of 1.6 days.
Helps law enforcement
Founded in 1775, the USPS is one of the nation’s oldest law-enforcement organizations. The U.S. Mail is protected by more than 200 federal laws that are enforced by the Postal Inspection Service.
Can recover stolen mail transport equipment
In 2021, U.S. Postal Inspectors recovered misappropriated or stolen mail-transport equipment that was valued at $1.1 million.
Saves people time with deliveries
Every day the Postal Service picks up, processes, and delivers millions of letters and packages.
Saves taxpayers money
The Postal Service generally receives no tax dollars for operating costs and relies on the sale of postage, products, and services to fund operations.
Protects veterans from scams
The USPS tries to protect military veterans from scams. Postal Inspectors, in partnership with the AARP, promoted Operation Protect Veterans to raise awareness of scams that target military veterans. The Inspection Service launched a special web page dedicated to Operation Protect Veterans at https://www.uspis.gov/veterans.
Delivers food to hard-to-get-to places
Every year, the Postal Service and the National Association of Letter Carriers hold a one-day food drive. The post office in Peach Springs, Ariz., has walk-in freezers for food intended for delivery by mule train to the bottom of the Grand Canyon.
Employs hundreds of thousands
The United States Postal Service has more than 630,000 employees as of Sept. 30, 2019. It is the second-largest civilian employer in the U.S. (only Walmart is bigger).