The U.S. Postal Service is supposed to be self-funded — not getting any government money. Congress is still very much in the picture, however. In 2006, it passed a law requiring the Postal Service to prepay health benefits for its retirees.
“Congress ordered the Postal Service to pay, for 10 years, about $5.5 billion per year into this prepayment fund,” said Jim Campbell, lawyer and consultant on the Postal Service. The thinking was that by funding benefits in advance, the money would be there when retirees need it.
But, Campbell said, federal agencies don’t have to make these prepayments. And the Postal Service started defaulting on them in 2012. To make matters worse, Congress capped post office price increases for letters and circulars at the rate of inflation. First-class mail fell into steep decline. And the rise in online shopping continues to present a host of challenges.
Recently appointed Postmaster General Louis DeJoy has agreed to testify on Capitol Hill next week about changes that have interfered with mail delivery nationwide. The House of Representatives is scheduled to come back from its summer recess later this week to vote on USPS legislation.