Thursday, November 3, 2011

Legislators Introduce Postal Reform Bill To Save USPS

Struggling to stay afloat in a down economy, the United States Postal Service (USPS) is receiving much needed life support from a bi-partisan group of legislators.

At a press conference held this morning, four members of the U.S. Senate's Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs backed The 21st Century Postal Service Act of 2011: Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Tom Carper (D-Del.), and Scott Brown (R-Mass.).  It contains a number of provisions, including:

  • Preserving six-day delivery for another two years.  After that period, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) will determine whether the Postal Service's financial situation is in good enough shape to support a six-day delivery.  The prospect of a five-day mail cycle was a huge concern for nonprofits and other businesses, so this will be a major relief for them should the bill pass.
  • Refunding $7 billion to USPS through the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), as overpayment to the Federal Employee Retirement Health System (FERS).  About a quarter of that money would be used as retirement incentive buyouts of up to $25,000 (or credit service years toward retirement annuity) to reduce staff by 100,000, and pay down USPS debt.
  • Giving USPS the authority by 2015 to deliver to curbside, sidewalk, or centralized mailboxes, rather than direct delivery.
These provisions, and the others included, are designed to help USPS and those that rely on it.  As Lieberman said at the press conference: “Too many people still rely on the Postal Service for us to sit back and allow it to collapse."  Tony Conway, executive director of the Alliance of Nonprofit Mailers, has already announced that his organization will support the bill.

In this era of bank bailouts, the members of the committee were quick to emphasize this is not a bailout of USPS.  The senators emphasized the $7-billion in payments to the FERS that originally came from ratepayers.

The 21st Century Postal Service Act of 2011 joins two other measures that are currently held up in Congress.  This one, however, seems to have a better chance of success since the four members who introduced it hold key committee assignments related to USPS.  Still, nothing is ever a given, so we will have to wait and see what happens with this bill.  Stay tuned for further updates as they occur.

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