Wyden, Merkley Join Bipartisan Deliver for Democracy Act to Help Local News Overcome Persistent Postal Delays, Surging Rate Increases

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley today joined the introduction of bipartisan legislation that would help local news outlets overcome their current crisis by providing incentives to ensure reliable postal service and limit excessive rate increases. 

The Deliver for Democracy Act comes in the wake of the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) consistently raising rates for periodicals under the guise of increased efficiency and improved service. However, local news has yet to receive those benefits and instead continue to face persistent postal delays.  

“You can’t know what is going on in your backyard if you don’t have the information on hand. Local journalism is the lifeblood that helps protect American democracy, combat misinformation, and empower communities small or large,” said Wyden. “The Deliver for Democracy Act ensures that USPS makes deliveries on time so local journalism doesn’t become history. As the son of a journalist and as an elected official who holds townhalls each year in each of Oregon’s 36 counties, I won’t stop fighting to help local journalism deliver news coverage right to your doorstep.” 

“Our founders saw journalism as so critical to a functioning democracy that they included the right to a free press in our First Amendment,” said Merkley. “Local papers are the backbones of our communities—they shine a light on the issues, large and small, that affect the daily lives of folks in Oregon and across the country. We need to do all we can to protect local journalism. The Deliver for Democracy Act is a critical piece of the puzzle of keeping local journalism alive—addressing the persistent local delivery delays that plague community news outlets and insisting on adequate service from USPS before any rate increases.” 

In January 2021, the U.S. Postal Regulatory Commission adopted regulations that established three additional forms of rate authority, including one for non-compensatory classes of mail such as periodicals and package services. Under the new regulations, USPS is provided an additional two percentage points of rate authority for any class or product of mail where costs exceed revenue. Since then, USPS has maximally exercised this authority and, if a recent notice goes into effect, will have raised periodical postage rates by over 40 percent.  

Despite such significant rate increases, the Postal Service has routinely failed to meet periodicals’ basic needs and achieve the 95 percent on-time delivery performance standard outlined in Postmaster General DeJoy’s 10-year plan. As a result, local news outlets, which must already navigate other existential challenges, are simultaneously subject to high distribution costs and poor service. 

The Deliver for Democracy Act would: 

  1. Require the USPS to either achieve at least a 95 percent on-time delivery rate for periodicals or an improvement of at least 2 percentage points to unlock its 2 percent surcharge authority for that class of mail;  
  2. Direct the USPS to annually report to the Postal Regulatory Commission on its progress in including on-time delivery data for newspapers in its periodical service performance measurement; and 
  3. Instruct the Government Accountability Office to conduct a study and submit a report to Congress on options for alternate USPS pricing schemes to improve the financial position of periodicals. 

The Deliver for Democracy Act is endorsed by the National Newspaper Association and News/Media Alliance. 

In addition to Wyden and Merkley, the legislation is cosponsored by U.S. Senators Peter Welch (D-Vt.) and Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) today led Senators Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), John Hoeven (R-N.D.).  

“Our members are being forced to cope with unsustainable rates from the monopoly postal system. If something doesn’t change soon, they will be put out of business and residents will see more news deserts and an even greater loss of quality news and information. We thank Senator Welch and Senator Rounds for their leadership and support of the Deliver for Democracy Act,” said Danielle Coffey, President and CEO of News/Media Alliance. 

“NNA applauds the introduction of the Deliver for Democracy Act. This bill highlights the responsibility of the USPS to accurately measure the service newspapers receive and will hold it accountable for failing to meet its service standards. For publishers who are struggling to keep their papers in circulation due to excessive rate increases, this bill is an important first step towards making the USPS a viable distribution partner again,” said John Galer, Chairman of National Newspaper Association. 

A one-page explainer of the bill is here

The full bill text is here