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WASHINGTON - U.S. Senator Susan Collins, one of the lead sponsors of bipartisan, comprehensive postal reform sent a letter to the leadership of the House of Representatives urging prompt consideration critical postal reform legislation.

 

In their letter to Speaker of the House John Boehner and Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, Senator Collins and cosponsors Senators Joe Lieberman (ID-Conn.), Tom Carper (D-Del.) and Scott Brown (R-Mass.) urge the House to act on legislation before May 15.  The two chambers can reconcile their respective bills to turn around the Postal Service's daily loss of $25 million, prevent the unnecessary wholesale closing of regional mail facilities and local post offices, and save this iconic institution that delivers over 500 million pieces of mail a day and sustains over 8 million jobs. Last week, the Senate overwhelmingly passed the 21st Century Postal Service Act (S. 1789) authored by Senator Collins and her colleagues.

 

"The Postal Service's financial crisis will likely come to a head in the next few months.  Without legislation, the Postal Service will not be able to make payments that are due and will likely be forced to slash services," wrote the Senators. "We fear that the resulting degradation of mail service will further drive away postal customers, only hastening the loss of postal revenue, the accelerating contraction of mail processing and mail-related industry, and further loss of associated jobs."

 

The Senate bill includes a one-year moratorium on closures of small, rural post offices unless there is no significant community opposition to the closure.  It encourages the Postal Service to work with the community to explore options such as co-locating a post office within a retail store or sharing space with government agencies. Senator Collins authored a key provision that would result in the continued operation of the Eastern Maine Processing Center in Hampden by mandating certain overnight delivery standards in some areas.  In Maine, reliable overnight delivery service would be impossible without both the Eastern Maine facility in Hampden and the Southern Maine plant in Scarborough.  The Hampden plant could not be closed as long as these standards become law. 

 

The financial condition of the Postal Service has been deteriorating for years but the economic downturn and the near universal use of the internet for communications and commerce have hastened its downward spiral.  

 

To help USPS cut costs and raise revenues, the 21st Century Postal Service Act (S. 1789) would: 

 

·       Give the Postmaster General access to money USPS has overpaid into one of its retirement funds to provide incentives to encourage 100,000 eligible employees to retire.  This would help voluntarily "right-size" the workforce to take into account the steep decline in first class mail volume in recent years;

·       Reduce the amount of money that USPS has to prefund for retiree health benefits by amortizing the costs over 40 years and calculating those costs more appropriately.

·       Retain overnight delivery of first class mail, but limit it in some cases to shorter geographic distances. 

·       Prevent the Postal Service from going to five-day delivery for the next two years and require it to exhaust all other cost-saving measures first; 

·       Require USPS to set standards for retail service across the country, consider several alternative options before closing post offices, and provide for increased opportunity for public input;

·       Allow USPS to sell non-postal products and services in appropriate cases;

·       Allow USPS to ship beer, wine, and distilled spirits, where consistent with state and local law. 

·       Create a Chief Innovation Officer to foster innovation at USPS

·       Reform the Federal Employees Compensation Act, the federal workers' compensation program.  

 

The bill also expands the alternatives USPS must consider before closing a post office and it establishes a Strategic Advisory Commission, to be composed of prominent citizens and charged with developing a new strategic blueprint for the Postal Service.

 

The text of the letter follows:

 

April 30, 2012

 

 

 

The Honorable John A. Boehner

Speaker

House of Representatives

H-232 US Capitol

Washington, DC 20515

 

The Honorable Nancy Pelosi

Democratic Leader

House of Representatives

H-204 US Capitol

Washington, DC 20515

 

Dear Speaker Boehner and Democratic Leader Pelosi:

           

Last week, the Senate passed a bipartisan postal reform bill designed to preserve the United States Postal Service and put it on a solid financial ground for the next generation of Americans.  We are writing to urge that the House of Representatives act promptly, so that the two chambers can reconcile their bills to turn around the Postal Service's daily loss of $25 million, prevent the unnecessary wholesale closing of regional mail facilities and local post offices, and save this iconic institution that delivers over 500 million pieces of mail a day and sustains over 8 million jobs.

            The Postal Service's financial crisis will likely come to a head in the next few months.  Without legislation, the Postal Service will not be able to make payments that are due and will likely be forced to slash services.  In addition, we face a looming deadline of May 15, when the Postal Service is scheduled to begin wholesale closures of potentially thousands of rural post offices and other retail sites and hundreds of processing centers.  We fear that the resulting degradation of mail service will further drive away postal customers, only hastening the loss of postal revenue, the accelerating contraction of mail processing and mail-related industry, and further loss of associated jobs.

            We believe the Senate bill, S.1789, takes a better approach.  Under the Senate bill, the Postal Service would use the same kinds of retirement-incentives that private industry uses to restructure and voluntarily "right-size" its workforce, to reduce the postal workforce over a period of 3 years by 18 percent, or roughly 100,000 positions, eventually saving $8 billion per year.  Analysis provided by the Postal Service shows this bill would save more than $19 billion per year by 2016.  The bill also establishes an orderly and predictable process for achieving a more optimal network of post offices and mail processing plants, requiring involvement of local communities to ensure that essential postal services are preserved.

           More specifically, the bill that passed the Senate would:

·       Give the Postmaster General access to money that the Postal Service has overpaid into one of its retirement funds, so that he can use the money to provide incentives to encourage 100,000 eligible employees to retire.  This would help voluntarily "right-size" the workforce to take into account the steep decline in first class mail volume.

·       Reduce the amount of money that the Postal Service must contribute for future retiree health benefits, by replacing the current fixed annual payments and moving up to this year the 40-year amortization payments now scheduled to start in 2017.

·       Retain some overnight delivery of first class mail, but limit it in some cases to shorter geographic distances. 

·       Prevent the Postal Service from going to five-day delivery for the next two years and require it to exhaust all other cost-saving measures first.

·       Require the Postal Service to set standards for retail service across the country, consider several alternative options before closing post offices, and provide for increased opportunity for public input.

·       Allow the Postal Service to sell non-postal products and services in appropriate cases;

·       Allow the Postal Service to ship beer, wine, and distilled spirits. 

·       Create a Chief Innovation Officer to foster innovation at the Postal Service.

·       Reform the Federal Employees Compensation Act, which is the workers' compensation program for federal employees including postal workers.  

·       Expand the alternatives that the Postal Service must consider before closing a post office, and establish a Strategic Advisory Commission, composed of prominent citizens and charged with developing a new strategic blueprint for the Postal Service.

            We look forward to working with you and your colleagues in the House of Representatives very soon to reconcile S. 1789 with House legislation to save this vital American institution.

 

Sincerely,