Who hasn't heard about mail delays, price hikes, cuts and closures of mail facilities? Who hasn't seen the mail carriers out after dark? Who hasn't experienced (or know someone who's experienced) late arrival of crucial medicines or late delivery of credit card or rent payment?
Official postal service reports show a yearly net loss. We are told that the slow mail and price rises are needed to stem the red ink. The shift of mail to the internet is blamed. And revenue from first-class mail is certainly down. But revenue from package delivery is up.
The internet giveth as well as taketh away.
The main culprit, the driver of postal losses since 2006, has been a manufactured debt, created by Congress in the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act. Since that time, the USPS has been mandated to set aside $5.5 billion each year, nearly 10% of its budget, for retiree health benefits, 75 years in advance, within 10 years.
In other words, the Postal Service is required to set aside funds for retirees who not only don't yet work for the post office, but who also aren't even born yet.
No other agency and no corporation has such a pre-funding mandate. Most fund retiree benefits year by year.
As we enter a new year, it is critical that Congress take up the Postal Service Reform Act of 2021 (H.R. 3076). This legislation, which has broad public support, will provide the Postal Service with much-needed financial relief by eliminating the 2006 pre-funding mandate for retiree health benefits.
In addition, this bill maintains six-day delivery, mandates more frequent reporting on service performance and includes Medicare integration.
In May, the bill received bipartisan approval in the House Oversight and Reform Committee, the primary committee that addresses postal issues. It was also introduced with bipartisan support in the Senate. Now, we are waiting for it to advance through the Ways and Means committee.
Let's push our Congress people to speak out and move this legislation so the USPS can get back to its mission (Title 39 of the US Code) of providing "prompt, reliable and efficient services to patrons in all areas."
Jamie Partridge of Portland is part of Postal Workers United. He delivered mail in Northeast Portland for 25 years and served many years as a Letter Carriers' union officer.
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