Morning Edition: Salvaging the Post Office

Apr 19, 2012

Joe Lieberman has joined a bi-partisan group of U.S. Senators with a plan to revamp the United States Postal Service.

The independent senator from Connecticut says contrary to what some of his colleagues may believe, the U.S. Postal service still provides a vital service, and is worth saving. "563 million pieces of mail are delivered everyday by the postal service," said Lieberman. "A lot of packages including vitally important packages containing for instance, prescription drugs are delivered by the postal service so we've got to keep it alive."

But for years, the postal service has been hemorrhaging cash, a combination of the poor economy, and the internet, as many people switched from writing letters to sending email. The package of measures introduced Tuesday by Lieberman and a bipartisan group of senators to fix the USPS is a substitute bill to the 21st Century Postal Service Act. It proposes hiring a chief innovation officer, and establish a committee to look at alternative business models, while also streamlining the service by moving some post offices into private and retail spaces and limiting the distance for overnight delivery of first class mail.

And the bill aims to use a fiscal error to the postal service's advantage. "They overpaid certain payments to the federal retiree health benefits plan," said Lieberman. "They're owed money by the federal government and we've told them they've got to use a chunk of that to essentially provide an incentive to a lot of the postal employees who are eligible to retire, to retire. That will save over $8 billion a year."

Lieberman says despite these measures, hundreds of mail processing centers will close. But he's hopeful that one of the two mail processing centers in Connecticut slated for closure will be saved by this legislation.