President Joe Biden is set to sign a bill reforming the funding and operation of the U.S. Postal Service, with provisions aimed at improving service in rural areas.
The Postal Service Reform Act of 2022 cleared the Senate 79-19 on Tuesday after overwhelmingly passing the House in February.
The $106 billion package will offer a buffer to USPS’ mounting losses, mandate that mail delivery service is carried out six days a week everywhere in the U.S. and require retired postal workers to enroll in Medicare. The bill also codifies a requirement for the Postal Service to create a "dashboard" to update customers with delivery time data.
It also includes a provision allowing state, local and tribal governments to partner with USPS to deliver non-postal goods on behalf of those governments. Additionally, the bill seeks to ensure rural newspaper sustainability by increasing the number of copies a subscription publication can send to non-subscribers at a reduced rate to 50% from 10%.
Senate Majority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-NY, said the bill would provide the Postal Service with "a much-needed reset. It will guarantee delivery services six days a week, put the Postal Service on a path to solvency, and will ensure that we care for our dedicated postal workers, all while saving dollars.”
USPS came under intense bipartisan scrutiny during the Covid-19 pandemic and the 2020 elections, as mail volume – particularly for packages, e-commerce and essential goods -- swelled higher than the agency could handle. The increased demand was compounded by fourteen years of deficit at USPS, due to years of shrinking mail volume and a 2006 policy requiring it to annually pre-fund retiree’s healthcare costs.
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The Postal Service, led by Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, closed numerous processing facilities around the country in an attempt to make fiscal cuts, adding to service delays for customers.
Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., said the bill will make life easier for rural customers who rely on the Postal Service to deliver not only the mail but also essential items like medication. He also urged USPS to consider reopening shuttered processing facilities in rural areas.
“I hope to make the case to the United States Postal Service after the passage of this legislation that the postal processing facilities that have been closed in Kansas should be considered for reopening,” Moran said. “Today the mail will leave a rural community, go to some neighboring state … only to be returned to the postal patron who lives a block from the person who mailed the letter to begin with. We need the return of those postal processing facilities.”