Group of U.S. senators backs $46 billion in relief for Postal Service

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -A bipartisan group of 20 U.S. senators introduced legislation on Wednesday to provide the cash-strapped U.S. Postal Service (USPS) with $46 billion in financial relief over 10 years.

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The U.S. House of Representatives Oversight and Reform Committee voted unanimously to approve companion legislation last week.

The legislation would eliminate a requirement that USPS pre-fund retiree health benefits for 75 years and would require postal employees to enroll in the Medicare government-retiree health plan. Instead, USPS would pay a small, yearly “top-up” payment to address actual annual retiree costs.

The agency has reported net losses of $86.7 billion since 2007. One reason is 2006 legislation mandating that it pre-fund more than $120 billion in retiree healthcare and pension liabilities, a requirement that labor unions have called an unfair burden not shared by other businesses.

“This common-sense, bipartisan legislation would help put the Postal Service on a sustainable financial footing,” said Senator Gary Peters, a Democrat who chairs the panel that oversees the Postal Service.

The Postal Service has struggled with poor delivery performance over the past year, facing a huge boost in packages and COVID-19 staffing issues.

The bill would require USPS to maintain delivery for six days a week.

A USPS spokesman said on Wednesday the agency was “encouraged to see the introduction of bipartisan, bicameral postal reform language.” If passed, the financial reforms “will be a major step forward for financial sustainability of the Postal Service,” the spokesman added.

In March, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy proposed a 10-year strategic plan that would eliminate $160 billion in forecasted red ink by slowing some mail deliveries, cutting some retail hours and closing some locations.

DeJoy told Reuters in March that action was urgently needed. “We’re losing $10 billion a year – gotta fix it,” he said.

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