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Senate Ignores Postal Issues – Until They Could Impact Elections

Increased revenue courtesy of greater patronage from small and medium-sized online businesses and their shipping needs hasn’t been enough to offset ongoing multi-billion dollar losses at the US Postal Service. But its plan to help offset losses by closing more mail processing centers in an election year evoked a strong response from U.S. Senators.

Post and Parcel pointed out the upcoming elections will have 36 of the Senate’s 100 seats up for grabs. Closing processing plants offers the specter of angry unemployed voters venting their anger at incumbents, and the Senate is moving to delay the closure of 82 mail processing centers.

Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and 49 other Senators want the Senate Appropriations Committee to include this ban as part of what was described as “must-pass legislation to keep the government running.” In a statement from Sanders’ office, the 50 Senators said, “This one-year moratorium will give Congress the time it needs to enact the comprehensive postal reforms that are necessary for the Postal Service to function effectively into the future.”

Such reforms would likely need to target an issue regularly cited by the Post Office as a major cause of its losses. That would be the requirement to pre-fund retiree health benefits. In his statement, Sanders said that without the mandated $5.5 billion annual payment, which hasn’t been made for three years, the retirement fund “already has more than enough money to cover retirees’ health care needs.”

Sanders also criticized reports of fiscal problems at the Postal Service as “misleading,” saying “revenue outpaced expenses by almost $1 billion since the fall of 2012.” He credited part of the rising revenues to increased package deliveries for online retailers.

That revenue could rise even more starting in September. Priority Mail rates changeon September 7th for shippers who purchase that postage at a physical Post Office. However, lower rates will be available for customers who buy Priority Mail postage online.

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David A Utter
David A Utter
David A. Utter is a freelance writer based in Lexington, KY. He has covered technology topics from search to security to online business and has been quoted in places like ZDNet and BusinessWeek. He considers his appearance on NPR's "All Things Considered" with long-time host Robert Siegel a delightful highlight. You can find him on Twitter @davidautter and on LinkedIn.