Mailers in the United States have written to top Congressmen urging them to remove restrictions on closing postal processing facilities from a government financing bill.
The Coalition for a 21st Century Postal Service said a provision added to the Senate’s Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Bill would “complicate” efforts to reform the US postal system and cause additional uncertainty and delay in returning USPS to financial viability.
The US Postal Service is beginning a process of consolidating its network of mail sorting plants this month, aiming to close 48 of its 461 plants by the end of August and a further 92 in early 2013.
The downsizing of the processing network comes as US mail volumes have fallen by around 25% in the last five years, and loss-making USPS seeks to cut its annual operating costs by more than $3bn a year.
A Senate postal reform bill passed at the end of April, which offers a restructuring of USPS pension and healthcare arrangements, is currently awaiting a sister bill to pass the House of Representatives before a unified bill can become law.
However, after his measure was rejected for inclusion in the Senate, Appropriations committee member Dick Durbin, a Democrat from Illinois, last month circumvented the process by adding his measure to the government budgeting bill.
Durbin’s provision requires USPS to carry out a fresh audit of cost savings that will be achieved by closing 11 particular mail plants before moving forward with its network downsizing plans. The 11 plants, including two in Durbin’s home state, were “found to be efficient” according to the Senator, who suggested his provision might not even save the plants, but would give them “one more opportunity to prove how important” they are.
The Finance Bill passed out of committee last month but awaits approval by the full Senate.
The Coalition for a 21st Century Postal Service, which represents 41 trade associations and businesses in the US mailing industry, wrote to Senate leaders yesterday calling on them to avoid adding postal measures to the bill.
“Addressing new postal issues in the appropriations process can only serve to complicate the efforts to enact needed reform legislation that was approved by the full Senate only weeks ago,” said the mailers’ letter as co-signed by the lobby group’s coordinators, Art Sackler and Ben Cooper.
Congress considers several appropriations measures each year to provide funding for federal activities. Traditionally, the mandate for the US Postal Service to provide delivery services at least six days per week has been included in the appropriations legislation rather than postal legislation, and must be removed if Congress is to allow USPS to abandon Saturday deliveries to save on further operating costs.
The House of Representatives is considering its version of the Financial Services and General Government Bill, and last month the House oversight committee chairman, Darrell Issa, who is leading on the House postal reform bill, requested that debate be allowed on whether to scrap the six-day USPS requirement from the appropriations bill.
The Coalition for a 21st Century Postal Service said its members were split over the six-day delivery mandate, with some members “strongly committed” to six-day delivery and others feeling it should be sacrificed in the interest of reducing USPS costs.
Source: Post&Parcel/Coalition for a 21st Century Postal Service