Mailers Await Lawmakers' Decision on Postal Funding

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A House-Senate conference committee was scheduled to discuss a compromise on two versions of a Defense Department appropriations bill today, a process that will determine whether the U.S. Postal Service receives up to $600 million in additional funding.


The Senate version of the bill, passed by voice vote Dec. 7, adds $600 million for the postal service while the House of Representatives version allocated no extra money for the USPS. The funds would offset initial costs of security measures needed to protect postal employees and customers from anthrax.


The Direct Marketing Association sent a letter to key House and Senate members, urging support for the Senate bill.


"This is certainly a request that should not be denied in light of our current times," said H. Robert Wientzen, president/CEO of the DMA.


Mailers also hope the final bill includes money for the USPS.


"We have the possibility of anywhere from zero dollars to $600 million in the bill that comes out, so we are concerned," said Jerry Cerasale, the DMA's senior vice president of government affairs. "We are working, however, to make sure it is known that funding is needed."


Cerasale also said that the DMA is lobbying the conferees.


"It's an uphill struggle, but we hope to be victorious in it," he said.


No matter how much the USPS gets from the bill, Cerasale said, it wouldn't affect the current rate case proposal, which calls for an average increase of 8.7 percent. He also said it wouldn't affect the rate case settlement still being debated.


Officials have been meeting with executives from major mailing companies and industry groups over the past several weeks to accept the current rate case without challenge. If it is accepted, rates would rise in June, rather than September or October. If a settlement is not reached, the USPS has warned those involved that it would revise its numbers and seek increases of up to 19 percent.


Several parties involved say a settlement is impossible because many in the mailing industry oppose both higher and earlier rate increases. However, they said that mailers may be giving in slightly, rebelling against a June 2 date and coalescing to a date later in the summer.


Meanwhile, the procedural schedule for the current rate case continues. On Dec. 13, hearings for cross-examination of the USPS' case began.


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