House Expected to Approve Overhaul of Postal Service
WASHINGTON — The U.S. House plans to vote as soon as this week on a bill that would overhaul the way the Postal Service does business.
After years of financial losses, the House Rules Committee believes it has developed a bipartisan way to help the Postal Service rid itself of much of its debt.
The bill would allow the Postal Service to diversify its business offerings into contracts with state and local governments.
The style of the services could vary but would continue the Postal Service’s status as a government entity that does not compete with commercial businesses. Examples could include issuing fishing and hunting licenses.
Other parts of the Postal Service Reform Act would eliminate debt from pension health benefits by shifting them to Medicare. It also would require the Postal Service to publish its performance data online to help lawmakers and the agency’s administrators quickly identify problems.
Despite pressure to reduce its services, the act says the Postal Service must continue delivering letters and parcels six days per week.
Under its current business model, the Postal Service estimates it will run out of money before 2024.
“With this bill, that won’t happen,” said Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y.
The Postal Service funds delivery to nearly 159 million points through postage sales.
At the same time, the volume of mail it carries and postage it earns are falling in the face of competition from FedEx, UPS, email and other internet messaging services.
“This will help the postal service develop new revenue,” Maloney said.
She estimated the Postal Service would save about $50 billion over 10 years with the proposed legislation.
The Government Accountability Office put the Postal Service on its High Risk List of government agencies in 2009. It has endured 15 consecutive years of annual losses since 2007, totaling $91.2 billion.
Frustration with the Postal Service’s failing fortunes was evident at the Rules Committee hearing.
Rep. Ed Perlmutter, D-Colo., told about mail delivery delays to residents of rural mountainous areas of his state, largely because of Postal Service staffing shortages.
“I have complaints now that I [haven’t] had for years,” he said.
Rep. James Comer, R-Ky., said, “The postal service is in grave financial condition.”
Problems before COVID-19 that devastated the postal workforce were exacerbated by the pandemic, he said.
By getting rid of some pension obligations while injecting business opportunities into the mail system, the proposed legislation would help the Postal Service pay its expenses in ways the government could not offer, he said.
“We cannot legislate good business practices and future success,” Comer said.
Tom can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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