WASHINGTON – A bipartisan group of senators announced Wednesday they had reached agreement on a compromise proposal to save the United States Postal Service (USPS) from financial disaster and put it on the road toward financial stability.
Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman, ID-Conn, Ranking Member Susan Collins, R-Maine, Subcommittee on Federal Financial Management Chairman Tom Carper, D-Del, and Senator Scott Brown, R-Mass., unveiled the 21st Century Postal Service Act at a press conference. The bill was introduced later in the day and it will be marked up in the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee next week.
The rescue legislation provides the Postal Service with the flexibility and tools it needs to restructure the way it meets its obligations to its customers and employees.
Lieberman said: “The U.S. Postal Service is not an 18th Century relic. It is a 21st Century national asset. But times are changing rapidly and so too must the Postal Service, if it is to survive. The bottom line is we must act quickly to prevent a Postal Service collapse and we must act boldly to secure its future. The Postal Service needs long-term reform that includes a necessary restructuring of the way it meets its obligations to its customers and to its employees.”
Collins said: “The Postal Service literally won't survive without legislative and administrative reforms. Absent action, it won't be able to meet its payroll a year from now. The Postal Service is vital to our economy, yet is on the verge of collapse. It is in imminent financial danger. Jobs are at stake. The Postal Service is the linchpin of a $1.1 trillion mailing and mail-related industry that employs approximately 8.7 million Americans in fields as diverse as direct mail, printing, catalog companies, and paper manufacturing.
“We are asking the Postal Service to make painful choices about internal costs and not simply slash services and raise prices which would only add to its death spiral. This bipartisan legislation gives the Postal Service the authority it needs to restructure, modernize, survive, and thrive.”
Carper said: “Over the past several months, Americans have realized the hard truth that the Postal Service is on the verge of financial collapse. Our troubled economy – coupled with the continued migration to electronic forms of communication – is putting the future of the Postal Service in jeopardy, and it’s happening faster than anyone ever expected even just a few years ago. If we do nothing, we face a future without the valuable services the Postal Service provides. And if the Postal Service were to shut down, the impact on our economy would be dramatic.
“Although the situation is dire, it’s not hopeless. With the right tools and quick action from Congress and the Administration, the Postal Service can reform, right-size and modernize. The bill I introduced with Senators Lieberman, Collins and Brown presents a comprehensive and bipartisan solution to the Postal Services’ financial challenges that would keep it from collapse, protect the millions of jobs that rely on it, and enable this critical American institution to reform its business operations so it can continue to serve the American public for years to come. The time to act is now. It is my hope that Congress and the Administration can come together on this plan in order to save the Postal Service before it’s too late.”
Brown said: "Today a group of bipartisan Senators have presented a plan to preserve the solvency of the U.S. Postal Service and ensure the Postal Service's long term survival. I'm proud of this bill and look forward to working with my colleagues on a bipartisan basis to get it enacted into law."
The 21st Century Postal Service Act would:
- Authorize USPS to offer buyouts to employees to help reduce its workforce. The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) is directed to refund the Postal Service for what everyone agrees has been an overpayment to the Federal Employees Retirement System. Using this money to support buyouts, the Postmaster General estimates he can reduce the Postal Service workforce by as many as 100,000 employees over the next three years in order to reach savings of $8 billion a year.
- Allow the Postal Service to work with its employee unions and OPM to develop a new health plan to cover postal employees. The Postmaster General estimates that a new healthcare plan could cut costs roughly in half, while maintaining adequate benefits.
- Recalibrate the pre-funding requirements for its retiree health benefits by amortizing those payments over time.
Bar the USPS from five-day-a-week mail delivery for two years and until it develops remedies for customers who may be affected disproportionately by the change in service. USPS also must reduce costs and increase revenues by other means before five-day delivery takes effect.