The Senate passed the Postal Service Reform Act, which will likely be signed into law by President Joe Biden, as the bill addresses the U.S. Postal Service’s (USPS) long-term financial challenges and would allow it to continue service six days a week to communities nationwide.
The bill would provide financial stability to the government agency, especially after the strain and service slowdowns it faced during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, at least one senator has said that the USPS will need more changes to become financially stable.
Primarily, the law would resolve an increasing USPS debt caused by the 2006 Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act, which required the USPS to start pre-funding its retirees’ health benefits. Due to declining revenues, the USPS was unable to pre-fund the benefits, raising questions about its ability to fund its own long-term operation.
The reform act would also reduce health benefit costs by requiring future USPS retirees to enroll in Medicare, a national government health insurance program. The move to Medicare would save taxpayers $1.5 billion over the next decade, The Washington Post reported.The bill would also require the postal service to create an online dashboard showing weekly updates on local and national delivery times to help residents understand how local mail delays may affect their delivery.
Additionally, the reform would allow the USPS to contract with local, state and Indigenous governments to offer basic non-mail services, like issuing hunting, fishing and driver’s licenses.
“I want to thank the half-a-million postal workers who keep America going,” Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer wrote via Twitter after the bill’s passage. When so many other services were shut down from COVID—USPS kept delivering goods, supplies, medicines. They’re public servants of the highest order.”
Heralding the bill’s passage, Liz Shuler—president of the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), the largest federation of unions in the U.S.—wrote via Twitter, “This legislation ensures the USPS is financially stable, ends the destructive pre-funding retiree health care benefits mandate and guarantees six-day delivery reforms that are desperately needed to keep this beloved institution running with the same efficiency we have all come to depend on.”
The bill includes language that supports the 10-year USPS business plan laid out by U.S. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy. In March 2021, DeJoy unveiled the plan, upsetting some Democrats over the delays caused by DeJoy’s shutdown of mail processing facilities and move toward truck rather than airplane delivery.
Democratic Delaware Senator Tom Carper said more reforms will be needed for USPS to remain financially stable in the future. Specifically, he thinks post offices will need to serve as storefronts for other government services.
“We need people on the [USPS] Board of Governors who are very good at figuring out, ‘How do we help the postal service monetize the burden of going to every single mailbox in the country six days a week. How do we do that? How do we help the postal service turn that into a financial opportunity?'” Carper told the Federal News Network.