The U.S. Postal Service is an integral part of American life, especially in rural communities. In rural areas like the Third District, residents rely on the USPS for the delivery of prescription drugs, retail purchases, business mail, and cards from loved ones. In fact, you are likely reading this column in a newspaper delivered through the mail.
Despite being a vital part of American history and culture, the USPS is struggling to stay financially solvent and risks facing bankruptcy. Citing a $3.1 billion shortfall in the second quarter of the year, the USPS recently released a list of 3,600 post offices to study for potential closure, which included many rural facilities. It is clear the USPS must take drastic steps to fix its budget deficit, but it is unreasonable to put the brunt of this responsibility on rural customers. Understanding the importance of rural post offices to communities in the Third District, I have continued to work to prevent the USPS from balancing its budget at the expense of rural customers.
In April of this year, I, along with my colleagues from Nebraska, sent a letter to the Postmaster General of the USPS urging the agency to account for the impact on local communities when considering the closing or consolidation of a rural mail facility. My office also has contacted more than 1,300 individuals in the communities with post offices under review, and co-hosted a Congressional Rural Caucus briefing to draw attention to the benefits of rural post offices and the need for USPS to look elsewhere for cost-savings.
H.R. 1351, a piece of legislation supported by postal labor unions, recently has gained a great deal of attention. I have expressed a number of concerns with this legislation. In reality, this measure does nothing to address rural post office closures. Instead, the bill changes existing law to allow the USPS to receive up to $75 billion in bailout funding from a civil service retirement account. This account is used not only for postal service retirees, but also for military retirees.
Even USPS officials admit H.R. 1351 does not resolve issues the organization faces in the coming years. As we in Nebraska know, short-term fixes often create long-term problems. For instance, this year alone members of two postal labor unions will receive raises totaling more than $270 million. Closing all 3,600 post offices on the recently released study list will save only $200 million -- not even enough to cover union pay increases this year. The Postal Service expects a $238 billion shortfall by 2020, so even cutting a $75 billion bailout check directly from the Treasury will not make it solvent.
Long-term, structural reforms are the best solution to put the USPS on a path to fiscal sustainability. These reforms include asking postal employees to pay the same for health benefits as the rest of the federal workforce, allowing for advertisement sales on postal vehicles, or shifting to mailbox on the curb delivery, which could save as much as $100 per house annually.
When the Postal Service originally was created it was charged with a mission to serve all communities -- both urban and rural -- with prompt, reliable, and efficient services. It is important the USPS upholds this original mission while at the same time fixing its bottom line. As this issue continues to be debated and considered, I will keep working to ensure rural communities have a seat at the table.