A bipartisan group of 20 U.S. senators introduced legislation on Wednesday to provide the cash-strapped U.S. Postal Service (USPS) with $46 billion in financial relief over 10 years.
The U.S. House of Representatives Oversight and Reform Committee voted unanimously to approve companion legislation last week.
The legislation would eliminate a requirement that USPS pre-fund retiree health benefits for 75 years and would require postal employees to enroll in the Medicare government-retiree health plan. Instead, USPS would pay a small, yearly “top-up” payment to address actual annual retiree costs.
The agency has reported net losses of $86.7 billion since 2007. One reason is 2006 legislation mandating that it pre-fund more than $120 billion in retiree healthcare and pension liabilities, a requirement that labor unions have called an unfair burden not shared by other businesses.
“This common-sense, bipartisan legislation would help put the Postal Service on a sustainable financial footing,” said Senator Gary Peters, a Democrat who chairs the panel that oversees the Postal Service.
The Postal Service has struggled with poor delivery performance over the past year, facing a huge boost in packages and COVID-19 staffing issues.
The bill would require USPS to maintain delivery for six days a week.
A USPS spokesman said on Wednesday the agency was “encouraged to see the introduction of bipartisan, bicameral postal reform language.” If passed, the financial reforms “will be a major step forward for financial sustainability of the Postal Service,” the spokesman added.
In March, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy proposed a 10-year strategic plan that would eliminate $160 billion in forecasted red ink by slowing some mail deliveries, cutting some retail hours and closing some locations.
DeJoy said in March that action was urgently needed. “We’re losing $10 billion a year – gotta fix it,” he said.