Potter Asks Senate for Funding

Postmaster general John E. Potter urged a Senate subcommittee yesterday to include funding for postal appropriations not in President Bush's 2005 fiscal year federal budget.

The largest expense is $779 million for emergency preparedness.

Potter told members of the Appropriations subcommittee on transportation, treasury and general government that the funds would support deployment of the Biohazard Detection System, the Ventilation and Filtration System and the construction of a mail-irradiation facility in Washington, DC.

“Our request covers only the capital expense of obtaining this equipment,” Potter said. “After initial deployment, operation and maintenance would become part of the postal service's normal operating expenses.”

In addition, Potter said the U.S. Postal Service entered an agreement with the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Homeland Security.

In the event of a catastrophic biological incident, “our letter carriers would voluntarily deliver antibiotics to affected Americans,” he said. “The procedures we develop will augment — not replace — those of local communities.”

Sen. Ted Stevens, R-AK, chairman of the Appropriations Committee, said his committee will work with the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee to see whether “we can get support for an emergency declaration for the [emergency-preparedness] money that [the USPS] need.”

Declaring it an emergency would put it out of the scope of the budget limits, “and the House will accept it,” he said.

Potter also said that the agency is due $29 million as part of the Revenue Forgone Act of 1993, which allocates $29 million annually to the USPS through 2035. The Bush administration's budget submission for 2005 does not include this statutory reimbursement.

The USPS also requests $75.9 million to provide funding for the free mailing of materials used by the blind. It also includes funding for absentee-balloting materials. The administration proposed $61.7 million.

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