Congress on Tuesday passed a sweeping bipartisan bill designed to overhaul the U.S. Postal Service’s (USPS) finances and operations with about $50 billion in financial relief over the span of a decade.
The Senate voted 79-19 for the bill, a month after the U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved the measure. It now heads to President Joe Biden’s desk for his signature.
Since 2018, the USPS has reported net losses of more than $90 billion. On Tuesday, the postal service reported a net loss of $1.5 billion for the quarter ending Dec. 31.
“It has to be done because the Postal Service’s business model just doesn’t work,” said Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), one of the bill’s primary sponsors. “Having to deliver more and more packages and fewer and fewer more profitable first-class mail pieces to more and more addresses.”
Louis DeJoy, the postmaster general, said in a statement last month after the House passed the bill, that it would have the same operational and financial impacts as the self-help steps officials are taking at the Postal Service “to provide the American people with the delivery service they expect and deserve.”
Officials have long warned that the USPS could run out of cash by 2024, without congressional action.
The legislation removes a 2006 retirement mandate and replaces it with a requirement for retired USPS employees to enroll in Medicare when they are eligible to do so. USPS estimates the change could save it about $22.7 billion over a decade.
“The post office usually delivers for us, but today we’re going to deliver for them,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.). “For the past few months, Democrats and Republicans have been working together in good faith to reform some of the most troubled parts of the Postal Service.”
Republican Sen. Jerry Moran of Kansas said the USPS has been in a “death spiral” that negatively impacts Americans living in rural areas in particular.
“For as long as I’ve served in Congress, I’ve advocated for sensible reforms that ensure the Postal Service’s stability,” he said. “USPS is the glue that keeps rural Kansas connected to the rest of the country. Pleased we are one step closer to getting this reform across the finish line.”
Republican Senator Rob Portman of Ohio, one of the bill’s primary sponsors, said in a recent floor speech that the United States is “pretty divided right now.”
“But one enduring reality about our country is that we have a post office that ties us all together, and everybody depends on that post office,” he said.
Portman said Tuesday that the USPS’s current business model “just doesn’t work.”
The bill also requires the Postal Service to maintain mail deliveries at least six days a week and to develop a public, online weekly performance data dashboard by ZIP code for transparency purposes. It would also increase special rates for rural newspaper distribution to promote local newspapers.
DeJoy put forward some of the proposed financial reforms for the bill in March 2021. He said at the time he believed the changes could wipe $160 billion in predicted losses over the next 10 years.
“By passing this historic legislation, the Senate has shown the American people that we can come together, build consensus and pass meaningful reforms that will improve lives,” Sen. Gary Peters of Michigan, the lead Democratic sponsor of the bill, said in a statement.
“This bill, which has been 15 years in the making, will finally help the Postal Service overcome burdensome requirements that threaten their ability to provide reliable service to the American people.”