Washington, D.C.– Amid talk of closing Tucson’s Mo Udall Post Office Building and mail processing center, which would eliminate jobs and mail service across much of Southern Arizona, Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva today called on Congress to allow the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) to fund its employee pension system the same way as every other government agency, putting the Service back onto positive financial footing and preventing the potential closure of thousands of post offices and processing centers nationwide.
Congress in 2006 mandated that USPS “pre-fund” 100 percent of its anticipated retirement pension and retiree health care costs, a unique requirement among federal agencies and entities. Typically, agencies will set aside 60 to 80 percent of anticipated pension costs without running any risks of missing payments. If the arbitrary USPS funding requirement – part of the Postal Act of 2006 – were removed, USPS has said it could meet its financial obligations and avoid closures.
According to the Washington Post, the Postal Service inspector general has found that USPS employees and customers overpaid $75 billion in pension payments, which now reside in the U.S. Treasury. Directing the Office of Personnel Management to return these funds to USPS would be a relatively painless way to avoid closures, layoffs and the devastating ripple effects they would have in a slow economy.
Over the longer term, the USPS is aware that it needs a modern business model, including the authority to engage in more direct retail activity, offer expanded mail-related business services, using electric vehicles and selling their excess power back to the grid, and other modernizing projects. Grijalva is a co-sponsor of the Reform the Postal Service for the 21st Century Act, which would make these and other necessary changes to USPS operations.
“This isn’t just about Southern Arizona or any one location – this is about making sure Congress fixes a problem of its own making rather than tightening the screw even further,” Grijalva said. “Talk of closing thousands of post offices because we need to ‘get serious about spending’ completely ignores what’s happening here. We can let the Postal Service operate in a realistic way, or we can punish it for problems not of its own making, close the Tucson processing center, and thank ourselves for digging a big hole we didn’t need to dig.”
The Morris K. ‘Mo’ Udall Post Office Building, at 1501 S. Cherrybell, was named after Grijalva passed a bill in 2006 recognizing the late Arizona Congressman.