Senate debates postal service’s best route forward

By Karl Henkel


The end of the moratorium on post-office closings is May 15, and legislators continue to banter about bills to save the financially struggling U.S. Postal Service.

The Senate this week debated the 21st Century Postal Reform Act, but that doesn’t mean the bill is close to receiving enough support to pass.

The bill would give the post office a quick infusion of cash, delay the closings of some post offices and eliminate Saturday delivery, though the last would not happen for two years.

It also would halve the number of processing and distribution centers slated for closure, from 252 to 125.

The Youngstown processing and distribution facility, home to about 500 employees, is one site slated for closure.

The Senate proposal also calls for the agency to transfer $11 billion in overpayments to its robust retiree health-care benefits fund.

Congress, which oversees the postal service’s public-private hybrid business model, approved the Postal Accountability Enhancement Act in 2006. It requires the postal service to fund retiree health-care benefits 75 years in advance.

Every year, the postal service starts with a deficit of $5.5 billion to cover future retiree health-care benefits for employees who may not be alive, in addition to $7 billion for current benefits.

But there still are other legislative options on the table. One is the Postal Service Protection Act, which is preferred by legislators such as U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, a Democrat from Avon.

“Sen. Brown, who is continuing to evaluate the 21st Century Postal Reform Act, is a co-sponsor of the Postal Service Protection Act, which preserves Saturday mail delivery, restricts the closure of rural and urban post offices and protects mail-processing facilities to ensure maintenance of timely service,” said Allison Preiss, Brown’s press secretary.

“The legislation would also address the most immediate financial problem facing the USPS by eliminating the unique requirement that the postal service pre-fund 75 years’ worth of future retiree health benefits in just 10 years,” Preiss added.

Dominic Corso, president of the American Postal Workers’ Union Local 443, said he also isn’t sold on the latest bill.

“Some members of Congress are using this as an opportunity to privatize the post office and kill unions,” he said. “It doesn’t address the pre-funding. It continues that massive burden.”

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