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Friday, April 13, 2012 - 10:23am

Senate Debates Saturday Mail

When Congress reconvenes from its Easter break Monday, it will continue work on a bill that would end Saturday mail delivery.

Letter carriers in Macon and Marietta rallied Thursday against that bill, which would also end door-to-door delivery for 35 million homes and businesses.

The carriers said losing Saturday mail means 80,000 fewer jobs and will only worsen a steady decline in first-class mail volume.

They argue the real problem is a Congressional mandate that the postal service pre-pay 75 years worth of retiree health benefits at a cost of $5 billion a year.

“We’re talking about people in the future who are going to retire and apply for their health benefits,” said Don Griggs, president of Georgia’s chapter of the Association of Letter Carriers. “The postal service, throughout the past five years, has made a profit. But because of that mandate, once they pay that $5.5 billion, they’re no longer in the black, they’re in the red.”

Griggs also said ending door-to-door delivery will hurt the elderly.

“They would have to either get a [mailbox] put on the street, if they could afford one, or go to a central delivery,” he said. “Now that central delivery could be down the block. So an elderly person would be affected by that, not being able to get down the block to get their mail or to get someone to bring it to them.”

Ending the pre-payment is part of the postmaster general’s plan to cut costs, but he has said the service faces a $14 billion loss this year and up to $21 billion by 2016.

Eight mail processing centers in Georgia are also closing to help save money, perhaps as early as next month.

A new report from federal auditors said Congress needs to take urgent action to keep the postal service viable.

Griggs said Congress should give the postal service the freedom to operate more like a business and find new ways to generate revenue, including putting more retail shops or bank branches in post office lobbies. He also said the USPS should be able to use billions of dollars in overpayments to civil service and federal employee retirement funds for operations.

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