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HomeEconomyCongress Passes Postal Service Reform—Here’s What It Means For Your Mail

Congress Passes Postal Service Reform—Here’s What It Means For Your Mail

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Topline

After years of revenue losses and widely criticized mail delays, the Senate passed a bill Tuesday to combat the U.S. Postal Service’s ailing financial condition and add accountability for the agency to deliver mail on time—after the House passed it in February—approving the measure in a landslide bipartisan vote even as USPS has become increasingly politicized under Postmaster General Louis DeJoy.

Cars drive past a mailbox on August 17, 2020 in Morristown, New Jersey.

Getty Images

Key Facts

The Postal Service Reform Act passed the Senate in a 79-19 vote, garnering widespread Republican support even beyond the 14 GOP lawmakers who co-sponsored the bill.

The bill will restructure the investment USPS makes in retired employee health plans and add Medicare requirements, which combined are projected to save USPS more than $50 billion over 10 years, according to lawmakers behind the bill.

This will help “preserve the ability of the Post Office to exist,” bill sponsor and House Oversight Committee chair Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) told Forbes in February.

DeJoy has also repeatedly pointed to its poor financial condition to justify making changes—including those in 2020 blamed for widespread mail delays.

The legislation mandates that USPS deliver mail six days a week, meaning it can’t cut service in the future, and establishes an online dashboard with weekly updates on the on-time delivery rate for everywhere in the U.S., increasing transparency so that people can easily see if mail is delayed in their area and by how much.

That could help lawmakers recognize issues in their districts and hold USPS accountable for improving service, said Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.) during a committee hearing before the bill passed the House, noting that if mail delivery is “bad…this will allow us to be able to fix that.”

What To Watch For

The bill will now go to President Joe Biden, who is expected to sign it into law.

Big Number

$4.9 billion. That’s how much money the USPS lost in 2021, the agency reported in November, though that’s down from a net loss of $9.2 billion in 2020. The agency’s financial issues are blamed on a variety of factors beyond how much mail is actually delivered—its present structure for retirement health benefits being chief among them.

Crucial Quote

“By passing the PSRA, we can ensure the postal service is able to provide reliable service,” Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.), who sponsored the Senate bill, said on the Senate floor Tuesday ahead of the vote. “By passing this legislation tonight and quickly sending it to President Biden’s desk, this body can show the nation that Congress can indeed build consensus. We can work in a bipartisan basis and get things done for the American people.”

Chief Critic

Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) prevented the Senate bill from quickly proceeding to a vote in mid-February, citing concerns with how the bill would affect Medicare funds, and continued to oppose it Tuesday before the vote. “This bill doesn’t reduce costs, it just shifts them,” Scott claimed, saying that while he supports USPS reform, it “cannot come at the expense of federal taxpayers.” The bill is estimated to save the federal government $1.5 billion over 10 years, and proponents have said it will not increase how much taxpayers pay for Medicare, though Scott said he had concerns about its unclear financial impact past 2031.

Tangent

The USPS bill is moving forward five months after DeJoy’s 10-year business plan for the agency went into effect, which includes measures that slows the delivery of some mail and have been heavily criticized by Democrats. This bill actually includes language that supports DeJoy’s decision to stop transporting mail by airplane, which has made some mail delivery slower. Passing the bill in concert with DeJoy’s plan was necessary for Republicans to back it, Comer said during a House Rules Committee hearing Monday.

Surprising Fact

The bill also lets the USPS work with state and local governments to provide nonpostal services to Americans, which Maloney suggested could include things like obtaining hunting, fishing and drivers licenses. It would also help rural newspapers through reduced mailing fees.

Key Background

Congress has been trying for years to get rid of a regulation requiring USPS to pre-fund retiree health benefits, which it first established in 2006 but has been a major contributor to the agency’s years of financial issues. The legislation passed the House February 8 in a landslide 342-92 bipartisan vote, and made it to a Senate vote Tuesday after getting briefly held up due to a clerical error when it was sent over from the House and Scott’s objections. The bill marks a rare recent point of bipartisan agreement regarding USPS, which has become increasingly politicized under DeJoy. A longtime GOP fundraiser and Trump ally, DeJoy has sparked Democrats’ ire since he took control of the agency in summer 2020 and imposed changes that slowed down mail ahead of the presidential election, when mail-in ballots became a huge issue. House Democrats have repeatedly held hearings to question DeJoy and passed legislation in 2020 that took direct aim at his actions, which died in the Senate.

Further Reading

Here’s How One GOP Senator Is Blocking The Senate From Passing A Bipartisan Postal Service Bill This Week (Forbes)

The House Finally Plans to Vote on Postal Reform Next Week (Government Executive)

Your USPS Mail Might Be Slower Starting Today — Here’s What To Know (Forbes)

Senators reach bipartisan deal to overhaul USPS finances, tighten accountability requirements (Washington Post)

Read More

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