“You’ve got mail!” Postal Reform
This month, the US Postal Service reported a two percent revenue increase — but a $2.0 billion loss in Quarter Three, and announced plans to cut 15,000 jobs and consolidate 82 mail-processing centers in 2015. The Postal Service has already consolidated 141 mail-processing facilities since 2012.
Last week, 50 Senators sent a letter to the Appropriations Committee leadership urging them to block additional Postal Service cutbacks in appropriations legislation to fund the government and avoid a shutdown — and block for one year any Postal Service plans to consolidate more mail-processing facilities. They also proposed a moratorium on any more reductions, which would slow first-class mail service, through fiscal 2015. (A similar letter is being circulated in the House.) Instead, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman urged his colleagues in Congress to instead enact comprehensive postal reforms “before it’s too late.”
Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Senator Tom Carper (D-DE) and House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) have proposed different approaches to streamline and modernize the Postal Service:
- S 1486 – Postal Reform Act in the Senate— Bipartisan — The bill accomplishes three overarching goals: reduce operating costs; modernize its business model; and innovate to generate new revenue, according to bill sponsors. Would free the Postal Service from burdensome regulations and provide it the flexibility needed to responsibly manage postal employee obligations and benefits. Would slow the implementation of further cuts to allow cost saving and revenue increasing provisions in the new law to be carried out. Would give the Postal Service greater flexibility in how it calculates its rates. (Currently, USPS can not raise its rates more than the amount of the increase in the Consumer Price Index (CPI).) — Passed by Committee on Feb. 6, 2014, but has yet to be considered by the full Senate. —
- HR 2748 – Postal Reform Act in the House— Bipartisan — Prevents taxpayer bailouts. Allows the Postal Service to maintain Saturday delivery of packages and medicine while phasing out the Saturday delivery of mail — like bills and advertisements, saving at least $2 billion annually. Allows the Postal Service to forgo past due payments owed to prefund retiree health care benefits, and will eliminate the FY 2013 and FY 2014 payments as well. Will replace the current part-time Board of Governors with a temporary panel of 5 full-time executives that have a clear mandate to turn around the agency and implement cost-cutting reforms. Will begin to standardize how mail is received around the nation by phasing out the expensive “to the door” delivery of mail, which only a quarter of addresses receive today, in favor of curbside and secure clusterbox delivery -– the delivery modes more than 70 percent of the nation already receive, saving $4 billion or more annually. Eliminates the ability of the national and state political committees to use the non-profit mail rate. (See full summary, according to bill sponsors.) — Passed by Committee on July 24, 2013, but has yet to be considered by the full House. —
From our Hill Sources: Both the Senate and House versions would save $17 billion over ten years. However, the House version focuses on reducing operation costs, including reducing health and life insurance premium contributions ($2 billion) and eliminating the free and reduced-rate mail ($1 billion). The Senate version instead raises nearly $16 billion from a 4.3 percent stamp price increase.
Additionally, Members of Congress have introduced other proposals to reform the Postal Service:
- HRes 711 – Resolution Ensuring Door Delivery— Bipartisan — “Would put the House on record as supporting the continuation of door-to-door delivery of our mail,” according to the resolution’s sponsor. “Postal reform efforts in both the House and the Senate call for the elimination of door delivery over the next six years. Instead of getting mail at their door, residents would be forced to pick up their mail at shared cluster boxes, many of which are in unsecure locations, poorly maintained and far from people’s homes. Seniors and people with disabilities would be most be hurt by the forced adoption of cluster boxes especially for getting their prescriptions.”
- HR 2615 – Access to Rural Postal Services Act— Bipartisan — Would ensure rural service is not inappropriately targeted by capping closures and consolidations of small post offices at 5 percent in any given year, according to bill sponsors.
- HR 1718 – United States Postal Service Shipping Equity Act Would give the US Postal Service the authority to mail wine and beer.
From our Hill Sources: A Prohibition-era law drafted in 1909 bans shipping any “spirituous, vinous, malted, fermented or other intoxicating liquors of any kind” by mail.
- HR 961 – United States Postal Service Stabilization Act “Would address the billions of dollars that the agency has overpaid to the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS) liabilities and return the overpayment surplus to the Postal Service so that it can better meet its financial obligations,” according to the bill sponsor.
- HR 5179 – POSTAL Act Would allow the Postal Service to offer basic financial services. “Post office customers would be able to open checking accounts, deposit funds in an interest-bearing savings account, and receive small-dollar loans. The bill would also require that the Postal Service offer customers a convenient “Postal Card” that functions as a debit card and allows them to engage in in-store, mobile, and online transactions,” according to the bill sponsor.
- HR 3963 – FLEET Act Would require the USPS to reduce their petroleum consumption by 2% each year over the next 10 years, saving an estimated 150 million gallons of fuel over the next ten years—about $400 million, according to the bill sponsor.
- HR 2690 – Innovate to Deliver Act Would authorize the Postal Service to expand its non-postal products and services, including check-cashing, public internet access, and warehousing services. Would establish the position of Chief Innovation Officer to manage the development and implementation of these innovative services, according to the bill sponsor.
- HR 2459 – Protect Overnight Delivery Act “Would protect overnight postal delivery by preventing the Postal Service from weakening delivery standards. Moving from overnight to two or three day delivery standards will not only slow mail delivery, it will result in 508 closed processing facilities and an estimated 30,000 jobs lost,” according to the bill sponsor.
- HR 4670 – Secure Delivery for America Act Converts 15 million current door delivery addresses to an even division of Secure Clusterbox and Curbside delivery. (See bill summary from sponsor.)
- HR 5377 – Postal Facilities Preservation and Sales Reform Act “The Postal Service currently sells their properties in a process that is not open, transparent, or consistent with their obligations under the law,” according to the bill sponsor. “In some cases, their actions endanger historic artwork and buildings. This legislation ends these problematic practices and creates protections that will ensure that the public is informed when the Postal Service attempts to sell property in their areas, and that historic public properties are protected if sold into the private sector.”
- HR 630 – Postal Service Protection Act— Bipartisan — (And S 316 in the Senate.) Fix the immediate fiscal problem of the Postal Service by ending the pre-funding mandate and allowing the Postal Service to recover pension overpayments. Would establish a permanent legislative requirement that USPS deliver mail on Saturdays. Would re-establish overnight delivery standards for delivering first class mail which would ensure the timely delivery of mail, keep mail processing facilities open, and protect jobs. Would give the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC) binding authority to prevent post offices from being closed based on the effect on the community and the effect on the employees. Establish new ways the Postal Service can generate revenue, by ending the prohibition on providing new products and services, such as shipping wine and beer. Would eliminate the current rate increase limitation that ties yearly increases to CPI. (According to bill sponsor.)