Today the United States Postal Service released its quarterly loss numbers, showing that the distressed self-funding federal agency lost $3.3 billion last quarter. Total mail volume was down 6% from the same time period last year. Historically, the first quarter of the fiscal year, which includes the Christmas season, is the most profitable for the Postal Service.
Notably, USPS Chief Financial Officer Joe Corbett acknowledged that continued deferment of the agency's obligation to fund retiree health care benefits offered to employees will not prevent USPS from reaching its statutory debt ceiling.
"Even if legislation changes or eliminates the [retiree healthcare] prefunding payments, we may reach our $15 billion debt ceiling in the fall of this year," Corbett said.
House Oversight and Government Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., author of H.R. 2309, the only legislation before the House of Representatives offering a comprehensive plan to save USPS and prevent a taxpayer funded bailout, reacted to the new numbers.
"USPS has reached a new, deeper level of crisis," Issa said. "No accounting gimmick will restore it to solvency. Congress must pass legislation that allows USPS to reduce its operating costs and realign its network in line with America's declining demand for paper mail."
Congress has offered USPS short term delays on its retiree health care payment, but postal reform leaders in the House believe it is important that USPS be able to meet its taxpayer backed-stopped obligations to employees.
"Allowing USPS to renege on these obligations would cheat the taxpayer, the postal retiree, or both," said Rep. Dennis Ross, R-Fla., chairman of the OGR subcommittee that oversees the postal service and co-sponsor of H.R. 2309.
USPS CEO Patrick Donahoe has repeatedly criticized postal reform proposals offered in both chambers of Congress in part because they have not allowed the agency to stop paying down its massive unfunded liability on the expensive retiree health care benefit it offers employees and retirees.
"We need to advance critical legislation that protects taxpayers, not legislation that kicks the can down the road," said Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., vice chairman of the postal subcommittee.