By David Shepardson
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -A bipartisan group of 20 U.S. senators on Wednesday released legislation 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 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.
“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.
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 told Reuters in March that action was urgently needed. “We’re losing $10 billion a year – gotta fix it,” he said.
USPS wants President Joe Biden’s administration to calculate pension obligations using “modern actuarial principles” that would save a further $12 billion.
USPS 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.
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