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Save the United States Post Office and Make Your Dog Look Only a Little Silly in the Process

People are snapping up stamps to contribute toward United States Postal Service revenues and shore up the agency as the ongoing coronavirus pandemic devastates sales, causing budget shortfalls that are imperiling the future of the agency. But anyone looking to patronize USPS has more options than just stamps—why not embarrass your dog, too?

Citing plummeting mail volume and a drop in the sales of postal products and services, the USPS estimates that the COVID-19 pandemic will cause $22 billion in net operating losses by 2021, "threatening our ability to operate," according to a statement released by Postmaster General Megan J. Brennan.

"As Congress and the Administration take steps to support businesses and industries around the country, it is imperative that they also take action to shore up the finances of the Postal Service, and enable us to continue to fulfill our indispensable role during the pandemic, and to play an effective role in the nation's economic recovery," Brennan said in the statement.

With the U.S. Mail Carrier Dog Costume, which disguises your pooch as a mail carrier—complete with little human hands holding out a package—you can do a little shoring up of your own for $17.99. The costume comes in four sizes, from an X-Small appropriate for Bichon Frise to a Large for your Golden Retriever.

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The official U.S. Mail Carrier Dog Costume. USPS / California Costumes

On March 27, President Donald Trump signed into law the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (or CARES) Act, which authorized a $10 billion loan to the USPS after the president threatened to veto a proposal by Democratic lawmakers to extend a $13 billion direct grant to the agency.

On Thursday, the Washington Post reported that Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin intends to set conditions on the loan, with the Trump administration withholding the money as leverage to force changes to the postal service.

Calling it a "plot to destroy the public postal service," the American Postal Workers Union have decried the move as a "power grab" which uses the coronavirus pandemic as a "crisis to force draconian cuts."

"The Post's reporting confirms what our union has long known: This Administration is committed to fulfilling the decades-long pursuit by some to sacrifice our public Postal Service at the altar of private profit," APWU President Mark Dimondstein said in a statement, accusing "Mnuchin and his Wall Street cronies" of working to intentionally worsen USPS services for the benefit of private delivery company competitors.

In response, people have framed public spending on USPS products as an act of defiance and a pathway for individuals to help prop up the agency's revenue. Using hashtags like #BuyStamps, #SaveThePostOffice and #BuySomeStamps, people have shared stories of snapping up sheets of stamps to bolster sales and defy the Trump administration's withholding of funds.

Anecdotal reports of being unable to load the USPS store, presumably in response to high demand, has led some to declare the initiative a qualified success.

"Over the past several weeks, the U.S. Postal Service has observed significantly higher stamp sales through our Stamp Fulfillment Services, particularly through the mobile friendly online Postal Store on usps.com," a USPS spokesperson confirmed to Newsweek, without drawing a causative link. "We appreciate our customers' business during this difficult period. Stamps celebrate the people, events and cultural milestones that are unique to the history of our great nation."

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A USPS mail carrier wears personal protective equipment while delivering mail in New York City in April, amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Photo by Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty Images

While the U.S. Postal Service is an independent agency that operates from its own revenue, rather than federal funding, a drop in mail volume caused by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in an anticipated 50 percent drop in revenue.

But the ongoing brinkmanship between the agency and the administration over the $10 billion loan (the USPS originally requested $75 billion in stimulus) also has pre-pandemic roots, with Trump repeatedly targeting the agency for what he sees as its favorable treatment of Amazon. In 2018 Trump opened an audit of the Postal Service, declaring the USPS "on an unsustainable financial path" and urging higher prices on package deliveries.

"The post office should raise the price of a package by approximately four times," Trump said at a Friday bill signing ceremony, during which he called the Postal Service "a joke," announcing his intention to pressure the agency to raise prices on package delivery.

"Four or five times, that's what it should be—or let Amazon build their own post office, which would be an impossible thing to do, because the post office is massive and serves every little piece of the country," Trump said, later denying any intention of allowing the Postal Service to collapse.

But while details on rates the USPS provides Amazon aren't public information, package delivery has been the source of the agency's largest revenue increase as of 2017, running counter to the president's claims that Amazon is to blame for the Postal Service's budgetary problems.

Instead, while its immediate budget crunch can be attributed to the coronavirus pandemic, the Postal Service's ongoing budget problems are more ascribable to onerous requirements placed on the agency by the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act of 2006. The bill mandated the USPS fund its likely pension and retiree health benefit obligations beyond 2056—a burden not placed on private companies. This required the agency to set aside more than $50 billion between 2007 and 2016, causing nearly a decade of budget shortfalls.

Save the United States Post Office and Make Your Dog Look Only a Little Silly in the Process | Culture