USPS Is Suspending This Service for Customers, Starting Friday
There are only a few days left to take advantage of this.
We all know to rely on the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) for consistent mail delivery—well, mostly consistent—but the agency's usefulness extends further than that. According to the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), the USPS offers a variety of non-postal products and services. For some time now, Americans have been able to apply for passports at thousands of post offices, and last year, the Postal Service relaunched its banking service, allowing people to start cashing checks at certain locations. Now, however, one of the agency's non-postal offerings is disappearing. Read on to find out what service the USPS is suspending for customers this week.
READ THIS NEXT: USPS Is Making This Major Delivery Change, Starting Oct. 2.
The USPS has been providing an important service since January.
During the overwhelming Omicron surge this past winter, the U.S. government developed a program to send free at-home COVID tests to Americans, as tests became harder to find in stores. The White House tapped the USPS to handle the operations of this initiative, and the agency started taking, processing, shipping, and delivering orders in Jan. 2022. At the time, President Joe Biden had committed to making one billion at-home COVID tests available to Americans for free, which included 500 million for allocation through the USPS.
"The United States Postal Service is designated an essential service for the nation and is an integral part of the federal response to this coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis," the postal agency explains on its website.
The agency has delivered millions of free COVID tests.
The Postal Service has continued to take orders for the free at-home COVID tests since then. By May 17, the White House said that 350 million tests had been given away to over 70 million households in the country. That same day, the Biden Administration increased the number of tests one household could order by eight—after they had previously raised the number of tests by four in March. Now, each household is eligible for 24 free tests in total.
Currently, "each order will contain 8 tests and there is a limit of 3 orders per residential address. Additional tests cannot be ordered regardless of the size of the household," the USPS says on its website. "Tests will be sent in two separate packages containing 4 tests in each package. A separate order number and tracking number is provided for each package."
But the USPS is now warning it's the last week to order tests.
Get those orders in now: This is your last week to order at-home COVID tests from the USPS. On its website, the Postal Service now has an alert letting Americans know that the free test program will be suspended on Sept. 2. USA Today first reported on Aug. 26 that the Biden administration would be suspending the program because of limited supply. A senior administration official told the news outlet that it needs to preserve the tests for a potential surge in COVID infections this fall.
"Ordering through this program will be suspended … because Congress hasn't provided additional funding to replenish the nation's stockpile of tests," the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) says on its website. But the senior administration official told USA Today that the administration is working "within its limited exiting resources" to secure as many additional tests as possible for Americans.
The program could resume if Congress provides additional funding.
The White House asked for up to $22.5 billion in additional COVID funding from Congress for tests, vaccines, therapeutics, and research earlier this year, according to USA Today. But the administration has failed to make progress, and warned back in May that the USPS COVID test program could face hurdles if more money was not allocated to it. "Due to Congress's failure to provide additional funding for the nation's COVID-19 response, the Administration cannot continue making the types of federal investments needed to sustain domestic testing manufacturing capacity, and this may jeopardize the federal government's ability to provide free tests moving forward," the White House said in a statement.
Still, the senior administrational official told USA Today that distribution of the free at-home COVID tests could "expeditiously resume" if Congress decides to reconsider providing more funding. If that does not happen, the remaining tests will be reserved for times of greater need—for instance, if there is a surge later this year. The official did not comment on how many tests are actually left in the nation's stockpile right now, according to USA Today.