Quick Action Expected On Senate Bill to Ease USPS Financial Crisis


Quick action is expected on a Senate bill that would provide the Postal Service emergency, short-term financial relief, and APWU President William Burrus is urging union members to ask their Senators to support the legislation.

The Postal Service Retiree Health Benefits Funding Reform Act of 2009 (S. 1507), which was introduced by Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE) on July 23, would restructure the USPS obligation to pay retiree healthcare benefits, and would generate savings of billions of dollars over the next several years. The USPS is projecting a loss of $7.1 billion in Fiscal Year 2009, despite predictions that it will cut costs by $6.1 billion this year.

A Senate panel could act on the legislation within a matter of days. The Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs is expected to “mark up” the bill at its next business session, on July 29. Amendments to the legislation could be offered and considered at that time, or by the full Senate at a later date.

Like its counterpart in the House of Representatives (H.R. 22), the Senate bill would help the Postal Service remain afloat for the next several years, although the methods for achieving that goal differ.

White House to Support Efforts

The Obama administration supports the restructuring plan, White House Deputy Chief of Staff Jim Messina told postal union presidents at a meeting July 24. The Senate bill reflects the approach the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) favors to resolve the crisis, he said.

The presidents of the four major postal unions had asked the White House to address the deepening crisis facing the Postal Service. Attending the meeting were APWU President William Burrus, National Association of Letter Carriers President Fredric V. Rolando, National Rural Letter Carriers Association President Don Cantriel and National Postal Mail Handlers Union President John F. Hegarty.

S. 1507 would reduce postal contributions to the Retiree Trust Fund for a five-year period, by:

$2.4 billion in FY 2009;
$2.5 billion in FY 2010;
$1 billion in FY 2011;
$300 million in FY 2012, and
$100 million in FY 2013.
However, in Fiscal Years 2015 through 2019 the agency would pay more than is scheduled under current law, with the increase intended to offset the reductions of FY 2009-2013. The Senate bill also would increase the Postal Service’s borrowing authority by $2 billion in Fiscal Year 2009 and Fiscal Year 2010.

In a statement, Sen. Carper said he hopes the bill will be enacted before Congress adjourns for its August recess.

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