USPS to Congress: You owe us $900 million

(Direct Newsline) The financially ailing U.S. Postal Service has renewed a request that Congress pay off a debt of more than $900 million to help it end fiscal 2003 in the black.

The debt stems from the Revenue Foregone Reform Act of 1993, which ended the government’s annual payment to the USPS for processing free and reduced-rate mail.

Nine years ago Congress, admitting that it never gave the Postal Service all the money it should have during the course of the 20-year program, agreed make up the $1.2 billion shortfall over the next 42 years in $29 million installments.

Although Congress rejected the request last year, postal officials, citing back-to-back deficits resulting from declining mail volumes and revenues, told the House and Senate Appropriations Committees that paying off that debt now instead of later would enable the USPS to end fiscal 2003, which begins next September, with an estimated $666 million surplus.

The USPS, which received slightly more than $96 million from Congress as the government’s contribution toward its costs of processing free and reduced rate mail, posted deficits of $1.6 billion for fiscal 2001 and $199 million in 2000.

Besides asking for an early payment of the Revenue Foregone debt, the USPS also asked Congress for $675 million it was promised in the aftermath of Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and anthrax scares.

Last week the USPS said it has lost $271.2 million so far this year. Revenue between September and March 22 totaled $36.1 billion, while expenses totaled $36.4 billion.

As of March 22, the Postal Service said, mail volume was off 4.2%, totaling 111.4 billion pieces against 11.63 billion pieces a year ago. Standard Mail volume declined 6.8%, to 47.8 billion pieces from 51.2 billion pieces a year earlier, although income dipped just 2.1% to $8.5 billion from $8.7 billion the year before.

International mail posted the sharpest declines, with volume plummeting 21.4%, to 524.5 million pieces from 667.3 billion pieces a year earlier, and revenue dropping by 9.3% to $918.5 million from $1 billion the year before.

The USPS also reported a 13.7% drop in Priority Mail volume, to 571.9 million pieces from last year’s volume of 667.3 million pieces. Priority Mail revenue dropped 5%, to $2.6 million from $2.8 million. While Express mail volume was down 12%, to 33.4 million pieces from 38.0 million pieces, revenue declined 9.9%, to $489.5 million from $543.1 million.

There was a 1.9% decline in package mail volume, 591.9 million pieces from 603.7 million pieces, but a 6.9% drop in revenue, $1.179 billion from $1.10 billion a year earlier.

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