WASHINGTON — While the hearings about the U.S. Postal Service went on, there is a bill circulating in Congress that could have a huge impact.
Its authors said it could save the U.S. Postal Service billions of dollars a year by removing a single budget issue, the retiree benefit pre-fund requirement.
When USPS starts out the year, before you even see the budget, the agency is already in the hole.
“A lot of the fundamental problems that have overwhelmed the post office the last couple months, can be traced back to 2006,” Mark Dimondstein, President of the American Postal Workers Union said.
So, what happened in 2006?
Dimondstein explained Congress demanded the USPS pre-fund its retiree’s health and pension benefits. At the time, Congressional leaders insisted it was done so they could ensure postal workers were looked after in retirement.
“No other company nor their agency has to do it,” Dimondstein said.
Each year, the USPS has to set aside roughly $5 billion for future benefits. Then figure out the rest of the budget.
“The postal service is actually going to run out of cash by 2024 if we don't do something,” Texas Democratic Congressman Colin Allred said. “So what our bill does is just very simple, it allows them to pay as they go for the benefits just like every other government agency does."
It’s called, the USPS Fairness Act. Congressman Allred joined several other Republicans and Democrats to sponsor the bill. The main point of the bill is that it would get rid of the pre-fund requirement.
“The postal service would actually be profitable were it for not for this requirement, and we think it'll allow them to expand their services, improve their operations and invest in their workforce,” Allred said.
Dimondstein believes it's critical to saving USPS.
“It will free up finances, for the post office to do other things that they need to do,” Dimondstein said.“Whether it's better staffing, whether it's modernized vehicles, whether it's upgrading buildings."
It all sounds very hopeful, but in the Congressional hearings, the U.S. Postmaster General pointed out the pre-fund requirement is only one of the many issues ailing the postal service.