So, what’s going on with the United States Postal Service? Recent changes to the system have caused severe mail delays, leaving Americans wondering how they’re going to make their votes count in the middle of a pandemic. Although Postmaster General DeJoy told Congress he’ll put his changes to the USPS on pause until after the election, voters still need to do everything they can to make sure their ballots arrive on time.

Read on to find out how you can help the postal service.

Why you should care:

1. The 2020 election depends on it

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How do you vote safely during a pandemic? By mail. “This year’s presidential election will be during a pandemic and many people will want to vote by mail,” said Stephanie Wylie, senior policy analyst for Legal Progress at the Center for American Progress. “It’s imperative that we have a functioning and reliable postal system to deliver ballots on time.” It’s predicted that double the number of American voters who voted by mail in the 2016 election will vote by mail this year, which means the post office will play a more important role than ever.

2. It matters to our health care system

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Without the USPS, many Americans wouldn’t have access to their medications. “The USPS helps to deliver life-saving prescriptions to millions every year,” Drake University freshman Grant Morgan said. Americans face so many barriers to health care already, but in a pandemic even more obstacles exist. The USPS plays a more vital role than ever in helping combat those obstacles. By delivering medications, the USPS allows many individuals to avoid the pharmacy (as well as the high prices and the exposure to COVID-19 that come along with it). DeJoy’s changes already affect the delivery of prescriptions, causing them to arrive late or not at all. Losing access to mail-order prescriptions completely would mean losing a lifeline.

3. Rural communities rely on it

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The USPS delivers to any and all addresses in the nation—the law requires it. “The postal service is really the only carrier that goes to rural areas. Even FedEx and UPS often hand off their packages to the USPS to deliver to these places that they don’t really see financial benefits from,” said Lauren Kamykowski, junior at Ball State University. So, what would happen if the government gave the people no choice but to rely on FedEx and UPS? Rural communities would no longer have access to affordable mail services and to their life-saving medications. Saving the USPS means keeping rural and remote areas alive.

4. Small businesses count on it

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Your favorite local business probably relies on the USPS to send their products to you. If privately-owned carriers like FedEx and UPS become the only option, shipping prices will go up. “If I’m purchasing something online from a small business and I have to pay like 15 dollars for shipping through FedEx, I’m less inclined to buy that product,” said Kamykowski. Recent mail delays already caused issues with online shopping, which means the USPS crisis could hurt small businesses even more if it continues.

5. Everyone needs it

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The list could go on forever, but you get the point. The USPS provides affordable mail services to every American. It plays a critical role in our country’s economy, the health care system and more. “Regardless of how many letters we personally send a year, or how many packages we receive, we are all old enough to understand and should care that for some people, not having the USPS is a matter of life and livelihood and death,” said Grace Hermann, senior at the University of Michigan. Recognize that even if you think you can do without the mail, many lives—including your own—would change drastically without it.

How you can help:

1. Talk to your representatives

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Putting pressure on your politicians can help incite real change. “By and large, the change for the U.S. Postal Service has to come from our politicians and it really is up to us as their constituents to reach out to them and hold them accountable to save it,” said Kamykowski. The USPS has suffered for years—not because of a lack of mail, but because of a prefunding mandate passed by Congress in 2006. So, the power really rests in the hands of your representatives. You can text “USPS” to 50409 to send an email to them automatically. Even better, you can draft your own emails, tag them in tweets or give them a call. Try everything you possibly can to get their attention.

2. Reach out to the USPS Board of Governors

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Send emails to the people directly in charge of the USPS and let them hear your voice. Supporters of the USPS already pushed for an investigation into the postmaster general’s actions—and they succeeded. You should never underestimate the power of the people! As for how to contact the board, you can find each of the members’ emails with a quick Google search. You’ll also find plenty of prewritten forms to send. Some organizations and websites even offer different letters customized for each member of the board. Get searching and start sending those emails to voice your support for the USPS.

3. Talk to your friends and family

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Conversations matter. Keep talking about the USPS and ensure it doesn’t get swept under the rug. “Let people know what is at stake, and if you see something that is concerning or fishy—like the removal of mailboxes for example—tell people about it,” said Hermann. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by everything happening in the world, but that can’t stop you from actively listening and engaging in conversations.

4. Buy stamps and merchandise

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Although it’s a government agency, the USPS doesn’t receive taxpayer dollars. Instead, the postal service relies on the revenue earned from postage and other products. That means you can best support them by making purchases on their website or at your local post office. “They have some really cool merch on their website. I’ve seen a lot of people on TikTok making it into a fashion trend,” said Christian Resch, junior at the University of Pittsburgh. If you can afford to buy a few books of stamps, a USPS hoodie or even a mail carrier outfit for your dog, you can help make a big difference.

5. Vote early

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Election Day will arrive before you know it, so start planning now; where, when and how will you vote? “We need lawmakers to adequately fund the post office and its workers. We need these changes to be rolled back,” said Wylie. You can help stop these changes to the USPS by exercising your right to vote. Make sure to vote early if your state allows it and if you choose to vote by mail, request your ballot now. To avoid mail delays, drop off your ballot at a ballot drop box or local election office. Do your research, create a plan and vote!

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