The U.S. Senate passed a bill Wednesday to overhaul the nation’s Postal Service.
The vote was 62-37, a demonstration that the often-divided Senate can come together to get something accomplished.
The Senate bill would allow nearly $11 billion on overpaid retirement funds to be used to buy out hundreds of thousands of employees, at the rate of about $25,000 per worker, and it would retain six-day-a-week mail delivery for at least two years.
The bill also revamp how the USPS sets aside money for retirees.
Sen. Ben Nelson called it an important bill.
"It strikes a balance between maintaining post offices and postal services Nebraska communities rely on, and reforming the Postal Service for long-term stability by addressing the financial challenges they face,” Nelson said. “Many Nebraskans have voiced strong support for this reform bill because they know local post offices link us to neighbors, our towns and the world."
Mayor Alicia J. Toczek of Loup City, told Nelson her community uses the Postal Service to send items, documents and water quality samples to state officials in Lincoln.
“Almost half of our community is senior citizens who depend on the mail for their medication delivery," Toczek said. "Many do not drive and the Postal Service is their main source of sending and receiving for their need and communication with their families.
“This bill will allow the State and local municipal government time to adjust, change requirements, so we do not have the unnecessary expenses for trying to meet state statues with a 24-hour window to get water quality samples in to the lab,” she said.
Last week, postal workers handed out leaflets in North Platte, asking residents to call members of Congress, tell them that mail service is important, and urge reasonable reforms.
The bill appears to retain overnight delivery of first-class mail within the same processing area.
The bill would allow the postal service to ship more items than it can currently, including light alchol products such as wine and beer.
The Senate agreed to leave rural post offices open in small communities unless there is another post office within 10 miles, or unless there is no opposition from nearby residents.
In a somewhat unreelated amendment, all federal agencies would undergo scrutiny about employee conferences, as a result of an expensive party-like conference in Las Vegas by the General Services Administration, the agency that oversees federal buildings.
Leaders of both the House and Senate must still get together soon to work out differences in reform packages before the reforms are adopted. Congress has until May 15 to act or more austere measures established by the Postmaster General will occur, including the elimination of all overnight mail and Saturday deliveries.
The bill creates a Chief Innovation Officer within the Postal Service to lead development and implementation of new and innovative products and services, Nelson said.
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