Tuesday, September 30, 2014 · 11:51 a.m.

USPS still losing money, awaiting help from Congress

This week is also Mailbox Improvement Week

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USPS leaders are encouraging Chattanooga residents to repair their mailboxes this week. (Photo: Contributed)

Leaders with the United States Postal Service are still waiting on legislative reform that is needed to return the organization to profitability. Meanwhile, the USPS lost $1.9 billion in the second quarter. 

“To return the Postal Service to solvency requires a comprehensive approach, which is reflected in our updated five-year business plan,” Postmaster General and CEO Patrick Donahoe said in a prepared statement. “The plan provides an achievable roadmap to restore financial stability and preserve affordable mail service for the American public. The major elements of the plan must be pursued and executed within a short window of opportunity to avoid unsustainable losses and potentially becoming a long-term burden to the American taxpayer.”

The USPS needs to save $20 billion a year by 2016, but many of the changes needed to do that can't be achieved without approval from Congress. 

Mailbox improvement 

The Postal Service is asking all Chattanooga homeowners to inspect and repair their mailboxes during Mailbox Improvement Week, May 19-25. 

"If a homeowner plans to install a new mailbox or replace a worn one, they must use only Postal Service-approved traditional, contemporary or locking full/limited service mailboxes," Postmaster Pete Dechelle said in a prepared statement. 

For more information on the use of names or numbers on mailboxes or answers to any other questions, contact Dechelle at 423-499-8200.

In April, USPS leaders said they would delay the implementation of a new delivery schedule and that they would consider other cost-cutting measures, such as rate increases and negotiations with postal unions. 

That move came after USPS leaders said Congress included "restrictive language" in a continuing resolution that impacted the USPS' delivery schedule and cost-saving attempts.

The USPS has reached its debt limit of $15 billion, and it defaulted on $11.1 billion for retiree health benefits in 2012.

Leaders also expect to default on an additional $5.6 billion on Sept. 30, according to a news release. 

The USPS also owes about $17 billion on future workers' compensation claims. 

“These obligations of nearly $50 billion and continuing losses highlight the need for immediate legislative reform to give us the latitude to execute on our five-year plan and improve our ability to repay these obligations and return to profitability,” Chief Financial Officer Joe Corbett said in a prepared statement. 

The plan also requires "aggressive" efforts to increase operational efficiency and improve the Postal Service’s liquidity position, including the accelerated consolidation of mail processing, retail and delivery networks in order to better align them with mail volumes and changing customer needs and continued administrative reductions.

Leaders are also working to reduce work hours. 

In the second quarter, they reduced workloads by about 7 million hours. That's a 2.4 percent reduction over the same time last year. 

They also decreased the number of career employees by about 25,000 in the second quarter and 46,000 in the last year. 

These reductions have been accomplished mainly through attrition and separation incentives.

The Postal Service now has the lowest number of career employees since 1966.

“Even with a 6.2 percent volume increase in shipping and packages compared to the same period last year, we were able to reduce these work hours to increase efficiency,” Corbett said, adding that work hour reductions have been the single largest contributor to the ongoing achievement of savings targets.

Changes that need Congress' approval

—Requiring a new USPS health care plan (resolves the retiree health plan prepayment issue)

—Adjusting delivery frequency (six-day package/five-day mail delivery)

—Streamlining the governance model

—Allowing USPS the authority to expand products and services

—Requiring a defined contribution retirement plan for future postal employees

—Providing instructions to arbitrators to consider USPS’ financial condition in interest arbitration awards

—Reforming workers’ compensation

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