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The Senate has passed a bill to save USPS billions of dollars and reform deliveries

Congress passed legislation to overhaul the U.S. Postal Service on Tuesday night. President Biden is expected to sign the bill in the coming days.
David Zalubowski
/
AP
Congress passed legislation to overhaul the U.S. Postal Service on Tuesday night. President Biden is expected to sign the bill in the coming days.

Updated March 9, 2022 at 6:24 PM ET

In a rare move of bipartisan support, the Senate passed a bill Tuesday night that will shore up the U.S. Postal Service's finances, providing support for the struggling agency and also ensuring service six days of the week.

The Postal Service Reform Act, approved by a 79-19 vote, cleared the House with overwhelming support last month. It comes after decades of losses from the Postal Service, while reliance on mail delivery only increased during the pandemic.

The bill aims to both cut costs and ensure more transparency. In addition to operating six days a week, the USPS will be required to create an online dashboard with data to track national delivery times. The USPS will also no longer have to pre-fund health benefits to its employees, which would save about $27 billion over the next 10 years.

"This bill, which has been 15 years in the making, will finally help the Postal Service overcome burdensome requirements that threaten their ability to provide reliable service to the American people," Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich., who helped lead the legislation, said in a statement.

Changes to the USPS have been needed for years, but the COVID-19 pandemic plunged the agency into deeper distress. Had Congress not acted on this legislation, officials have warned the Postal Service would have run out of cash by 2024.

President Biden is expected to sign the bill into law in the coming days.

The bipartisan bill comes after decades of losses and controversy at the USPS

Despite the bill garnering bipartisan support, some Republican legislators were concerned about its impact on taxpayers and thought the bill was rushed.

There is also disagreement over the 10-year plan to reorganize the USPS announced by Postmaster General Louis DeJoy last March. DeJoy's plan includes longer delivery times for some first-class mail and decreased hours of operation at some post offices as well as changes to the price of first-class mail.

Some Democrats, like Peters, have expressed concern over how DeJoy's changes would impact those who rely on faster delivery times for things like prescription drugs. The American Postal Workers Union also expressed concerns.

There are also other issues that aren't addressed in this bill, including making postal vehicles electric and protecting voting by mail. Still, DeJoy has called the Postal Service Reform Act "vital."

Last year, DeJoy told lawmakers the USPS was in "a death spiral" and needs legislation to help restore it to financial stability. The Postal Service lost $9 billion in 2020 and $4.9 billion in 2021. Last year DeJoy told a congressional panel that the USPS owed some $80 billion in unfunded liabilities because of the congressionally imposed mandate that it prepay the health care costs of its future retirees.

In addition to concerns over the plan, DeJoy himself also remains a controversial figure. During the 2020 election, DeJoy came under intense scrutiny when he advocated for reducing mail service ahead of the election, right as millions of Americans were voting by mail in the pandemic.

DeJoy is a longtime Republican donor and was appointed to his role during the Trump administration.

In November, Biden nominated two new members to the Postal Service Board of Governors, a move that could potentially lead to the end of DeJoy's role as postmaster general.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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