BATH — The bedrock of any small business is trust. It’s one of the few competitive advantages that small-business owners like us have over the likes of Amazon. Since my mother started this business in 1971, Halcyon Yarn customers have chosen to shop with us because they trust us to provide them with the products they order in a timely manner. And in turn, for those 50 years, we have trusted the United States Postal Service to deliver to our customers, “through rain and snow and gloom of night.”

Until recently, that chain of trust was strong; we knew we could depend on the Postal Service to reach our customers efficiently. Many of our customers are older and live in extremely rural communities, both in Maine and across the country, and they rely on the mail to deliver nearly everything they need, including prescription drugs and food. But thanks in large part to Sen. Susan Collins, President Trump has been able to manufacture a crisis he can exploit for political gain, threatening this vital service.

In 2006, Sen. Collins sponsored the Postal Service Enhancement and Accountability Act in the Senate, which included a requirement for the USPS to prefund its retirees’ health care benefits at an unreasonable rate. (Which, as a business owner, makes no sense to me.) And that obligation led directly to the budget shortfalls that Trump and Postmaster General Louis DeJoy have cited for the recent service cutbacks. Meanwhile, Susan Collins also voted to cut FedEx’s tax bill from $1.5 billion to $0 as part of the 2017 Republican tax bill – and they threw her a party in thanks. Collins created a billion-dollar burden on the Postal Service, which provides a service many Mainers rely on, while giving their corporate competitor a billion-dollar tax cut. Talk about a competitive advantage!

DeJoy has announced he would “suspend” any further changes to postal operations until after the election. But the damage is already done. What about the customer I spoke with the other day who lives in a rural area and told me the USPS location they relied on was eliminated overnight, without warning? Will that service be restored? We already have customers who are reporting extensive delays. Will the sorting machines and post boxes that have been removed be replaced to resolve this? And I haven’t even touched on the issues with access to mail-in voting. Does Sen. Collins think that DeJoy learned his lesson like she assured us President Trump had?

For our business, delays in mail service would be a big enough headache in “normal” times, but our situation is far from normal. We have already lost significant revenue due being shut down for the month of April, and our business has essentially become 100 percent dependent on mail orders because of the pandemic. Now is also the time when we are getting ready to produce our winter catalog to capitalize on the holiday season. This is one of our biggest expenses. It’s normally scheduled to land the first week of November, and if it’s going to be a casualty of Trump’s election strategy, then we have to ask ourselves if it’s worth it. Susan Collins says she supports Maine small business, but she’s caused us more uncertainty in an already uncertain time. If this were to fall through, we don’t have billionaire investors or venture capitalists to turn to.

I know we’re not alone, especially here in Maine where small businesses are the lifeblood of our economy. A threat to the post office is a threat to Maine’s small businesses and rural citizens – and especially to our state’s ability to recover from the crisis caused by COVID-19.

Trust is essential to our business, and it’s also essential to our institutions, and our government. Mainers should be able to trust that the mail will arrive on time. We should be able to trust that our elected officials will fight to protect vital services like the post office, not put crazy burdens on those services while ensuring their corporate competitors pay nothing in taxes. Maine’s small-business owners need representatives we can rely on to put our interests, and the interests of all Mainers before those of corporate special interests.

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