Congress passes postal reform legislation

The Postal Service Reform Act of 2022, HR 3076, cleared the U.S. Senate today, sending legislation to President Biden that would give the U.S. Postal Service relief from a 16-year-old requirement to prefund decades into the future. 

The mandate, unlike requirements for other federal agencies, beset the Postal Service with more than $58 billion in unpaid obligations. The bill passed by a vote of 79-19 with many rural Republicans voting with Democrats in favor. President Biden is expected to sign the bill.

The PRSA would roll back the prefunding mandate of 2006, shift about 40,000 postal workers onto Medicare parts B and D for their primary health care benefit and require USPS to continue its practice of delivering mail and packages as part of one integrated network, rather than splitting up costs as some package service competitors wanted.

The executive director of the Nevada Press Association and the Nevada Press Foundation said the legislation was long overdue.

“It relieves the Postal Service of almost $60 billion in paper losses it was saddled with by an unprecedented, nonsensical accounting rule approved by Congress 16 years ago,” Richard Karpel said. “It also helps Nevada’s community newspapers reduce their mailing costs, providing financial relief which will help them continue to serve their communities. Most importantly, it aids our rural communities, where postal service is most essential and delivery costs are the highest.

Karpel said all six members of Nevada’s congressional delegation voted for the bill, which he called “a model of bipartisan cooperation.”

“We want to thank them all for doing the right thing to help their constituents,” Karpel added.

The legislation also contains the Rural Newspaper Sustainability Act, which would give newspapers using Within County mailing rates the ability to send more sample copies to nonsubscribers. Community newspapers use this sampling practice to recruit new readers. Previous limits permitted them to send copies equaling only 10% of their annual mailings.  

When the bill becomes law, they will be permitted to send up to 50% of their annual mailings to prospective readers. Newspapers pay for the postage to send these copies and generate new business for USPS in doing so, as first-class postage is also purchased to complete new subscribers’ invoicing and payments.

“This legislation gives community newspapers a new ability to regain subscribers lost by the past few years of slow mail delivery,” NNA Chair Brett Wesner, president of Wesner Publications in Cordell, Oklahoma, said. “It also offers USPS a new lease on life by relieving debt to the federal government. Now we look forward to a revision of postage rates by both USPS and the Postal Regulatory Commission, which have attempted to retire some of this debt with dramatically higher postage rates.”

Wesner expressed his thanks to NNA’s Congressional Action Team for its vigorous advocacy and said congratulations were owed to the bill’s principal drafters. He also said there was a lot of deterioration of the system while we waited. We will have more work ahead of us in coming years.