Congress puts an end to the crisis it itself created; passes bill strengthening the U.S. Postal Service
By Lauren McCauley
The US Postal Service received a jolt of support on Tuesday when the Senate ended binding requirements rooted in a 2005 bill introduced by Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, who have long hobbled the federal agency.
In a rare bipartisan action, the Senate voted 79 to 19 to pass the Postal Service Reform Act, which abandons a previous mandate that required the USPS to cover its healthcare costs years in advance. The bill also requires retired employees to enroll in Medicare when eligible.
The House Oversight Committee estimates that these two provisions will save the beleaguered agency nearly $50 billion over the next decade.
The bill authorized the U.S. House last month by a vote of 342 to 92 and is now heading to President Joe Biden to sign the law. U.S. Senators from Pennsylvania, Democrat Bob Casey and Republican Pat Toomey, have split over the bill. Casey voted for, while Toomey voted against the legislation, according to an official Senate roll call.
Lawmakers hope the reforms will help restore the agency, which has long been targeted by conservatives for privatization.
“This 15-year-old bill will finally help the Postal Service overcome the onerous demands that threaten its ability to provide reliable service to the American people,” said Democratic Senator Gary Peters, chairman of the Senate House Committee. homeland security, noted in a statement after the vote.
Collins’ Postal Accountability and Improvement Act (PAEA), which became law in 2006, required the Post to pay retirement health care benefits for workers 75 years into the future.
Economists and postmen said the action caused an economic crisis on the USPS by imposing a heavier pre-funding mandate than any other federal agency or private company, and paved the way for major cuts under the Trump administration.
John Curtis, a retired letter carrier from Surry who serves as director of education for the Maine State Association of Letter Carriers, said tag in August 2020, Collins’ bill “helped set the stage for the current attacks on the Postal Service”.
By 2020, the Postal Service had accumulated a debt of $160.9 billion. This side, $119.3 billion was the result of the pre-funding of retiree benefits.
Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, appointed by former President Donald Trump, said the agency’s ” dire financial situation” major cuts needed leading to limited post office opening hours and longer delivery times.
The added burden of the COVID-19 pandemic has meant many venues have been woefully understaffed. In Maine, this caused significant slowdowns.
USPS Recount WGME in January that, not counting COVID-19-related absences, the agency had more than 90 open positions in Maine that it was actively trying to fill. The Bangor Daily News reported last month, these shortages meant that up to 20 to 30 postal routes were without mail every day.
Postal workers also noted that under DeJoy, the federal agency prioritized Amazon package delivery over first-class mail. This allegation was reported in Maine too. Collins and U.S. Representative Chellie Pingree have called for investigations into USPS practices.
Lauren McCauley is editor of the Maine Beacon, a sister site to the Pennsylvania Capital-Star, where this story first appeared.