Senate allows US Postal Service to delay $4 billion retiree payment

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The US Senate approved legislation on September 30 that allows the US Postal Service to delay $4 billion in payments to a retirees' healthcare fund. The measure, passed by a 62 to 38 vote, was added to legislation that extends funding federal programs at current levels and raises Congress' budget by 6%. President Barack Obama is expected to sign the bill.

The USPS had been charged with spending $5.4 billion on payments to its retiree healthcare fund this year. However, this action allows the agency to delay $4 billion of that payment.

Jack Potter, postmaster general, said in a statement that the action “allows the postal service to maintain fiscal stability while we meet the commitments we have to our employees and customers,” but cautioned that “there's more work to be done as we face the long-term fiscal issues ahead.”

Gerald McKiernan, USPS spokesperson, called the action “obviously good news.”

According to Politico, conservative members of the Senate had demanded that the provision concerning the USPS be dropped from the measure. Senators from both parties told the political news Web site that the provision was not ideal, with Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) protesting the way the measure was approved and Sen. Thomas Carper (D-DE) calling it a “Band-Aid.”

The US House of Representatives passed similar legislation on September 25 allowing the USPS to cut the amount of money it is required to pay to its retirement account this year. That measure passed by a vote of 217 to 90.

Last month, the House also passed the United States Postal Service Financial Relief Act of 2009, which would have also cut the USPS' payment by $4 billion. The Senate did not take up that legislation, and an agency representative said it had been “set aside.”

The USPS lost $2.4 billion last quarter, when it began looking for Congressional help.

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