Monday, May 20, 2013
U.S. Postal Service Faces Possible Shutdown; $5B Payment Deadline Approaches
Congress is being asked to change a number of laws that could help the Postal Service get out of debt and hopefully become profitable.
A deadline is looming for the U.S. Postal Service—it’s a five billion dollar payment that is due by the end of the month. The Postmaster General says if his agency doesn’t get its finances straightened out soon, it may have to shut its doors by this winter.
Congress is being asked to change a number of laws that could help the Postal Service get out of debt and hopefully become profitable. Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, is a member of a committee that will examine the issue in Washington D.C., on Tuesday.
Begich says some simple law changes could help. He gave the example of not allowing the post office to deliver alcohol.
“If you were buying a bottle of wine and you want to ship it to a friend as a gift, you couldn’t do it through the U.S. Post Office (Postal Service),” says Begich. “You can do it through any other method of shipping except the U.S. Post Office because it's not allowed by legislation, which is insane.”
The Postal Service has lost close to $20 billion in the last four years, but Begich says that hemorrhage doesn’t have to continue if the Postal Service were allowed to operate more independently. He says allowing the service to handle its employee pension and retirement funds in the same way that private businesses do would also go a long way toward saving money.
But some problems may be harder to fix, particularly the fact that the Post Office receives no federal tax dollars to operate. Its finances come from the people who use its services and that number is going down.
Still, here in Alaska, the Post Office is a lifeline for many rural families who depend on it for all matter of goods from groceries to medications.
Begich says it may make sense to close some post offices in the Lower 48 that are literally within a mile of each other, but not so much in Alaska where post offices aren’t always connected by roads. He says the list of possible closures for the state has dropped from over 20 locations originally to less than ten.