By Stacy M. Brown | NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent
(NNPA) – Congress has passed the Postal Service Reform Act of 2021, bipartisan legislation lawmakers said would help the U.S. Postal Service save money, balance its budget, and improve service.
The measure, which passed by a margin of 342-92, is seen by many as a critical reform that would repeal the pre-funding mandate – a rule passed in 2006 which gutted the Postal Service’s financial independence.
Reportedly, decades of falling mail use have turned the Postal Service into a “perpetual financial loser,” and the pre-funding requirement has accounted for $152.8 billion of its $206.4 billion in liabilities.
The legislation would clear $57 billion of that amount and save the agency another $50 billion over the next decade.
Importantly, lawmakers said the bill would help to modernize the Postal Service, ensure faster and more dependable deliveries, increase oversight and accountability, protect rural newspapers, and ensure the stability of this critical American institution.
“The U.S. Postal Service didn’t care that my grandmother was a Black woman who didn’t have much and lived in a rural area,” Florida Democratic Rep. Val Demings stated.
“They never failed to deliver. The U.S. Postal service is the oldest, most reliable, most trusted institution in this country. Countless Americans, including 90 percent of veterans, get their medicine through the mail,” Rep. Demings continued.
“Millions of Americans rely on the Postal Service to correspond, to operate their small businesses, and to vote. The U.S. Postal Service is fundamentally American, and I am proud to vote today to protect this exceptional public service and save our post offices.”
Rep. Demings noted that the bill would require future Postal Service retirees, who have been paying into Medicare their entire careers, enrolling in Medicare.
Currently, roughly a quarter of postal retirees do not enroll in Medicare even though they are eligible.
“This means the Postal Service is stuck paying far higher premiums than any other public or private sector employer,” Rep. Demings remarked.
The Postal Service estimates it could save approximately $22.6 billion over ten years by closely integrating Medicare.
The bill also eliminates the requirement that the Postal Service pre-fund retiree health benefits for all current and retired employees for 75 years in the future.
“No private company or other federal government entity is required to comply with such a burdensome requirement,” Rep. Demings declared.
The Postal Service estimates this provision would drastically reduce its pre-funding liability and allow it to save roughly $27 billion over ten years.
Additionally, the legislation requires the Postal Service to develop a public-facing, online dashboard with national and local level service performance data updated each week to provide additional transparency and promote compliance with on-time delivery of mail.
The measure also requires the Postal Service to deliver mail and packages at least six days per week across an integrated network.
It allows postal officials to enter into agreements with state, local, and tribal governments to provide non-commercial property and services that enhance value, does not detract from core postal services, and provide a reasonable contribution to Postal Service institutional costs.
Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.), who has sponsored the Senate version of the bill and the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee chair, said his chamber would move quickly on the legislation.
“I have worked hand in hand with the bipartisan leaders of my committee and the House Oversight and Reform Committee to craft this bipartisan bill,” Peters said in a statement.
“[The bill] will help the Postal Service overcome unfair and burdensome financial requirements, provide more transparency and accountability to the American people, and continue its nearly 250-year tradition of service to every community in our nation,” Peters said.
The National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA), known as the Black Press of America, is the federation of more than 200 Black community newspapers in the United States.