By Liam Niemeyer
A bill co-introduced last year by U.S. Rep. James Comer that aims to overhaul the finances of the United States Postal Service passed the U.S. House of Representatives earlier this week. Comer believes the legislation could be a boost to rural post offices in the state and help cut costs at the independent agency.
The Postal Service Reform Act was introduced in May of 2021 by Comer and Democratic U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney of New York and now has 102 bipartisan co-sponsors as it heads to the Senate, where it’s likely to be voted on quickly. Two key provisions in the bill aim to save the agency almost $50 billion over the next decade: having USPS retirees enroll in Medicare and scrapping the mandate for the USPS to pre-fund future retirement benefits for current and retired employees.
Comer also said the bill will invest in package-sorting infrastructure for post offices to adapt to future demands with the increase in package deliveries.
“We’re sorting them primarily by hand at the post office instead of with sorting machines. So this modernizes the package-sorting infrastructure, and also changes the logistics to make it more efficient and lose less money,” Comer said.
Kentucky has been one of the hardest-hit states with post office closures, particularly in rural communities that rely on them. A 2020 report from the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting found the state saw the most post office closures in the country between 2010 and 2020.
Comer said he hopes the legislation will help with the issue, particularly a mail processing facility in Paducah that was slated to be consolidated last year.
“What I'm hopeful for is that mail sorting facility becomes a package sorting facility,” Comer said. “I've got hope for that facility in Paducah. I've got big plans for that.”
Since 2006 when the USPS last recorded a net profit, the agency has seen more than $80 billion in cumulative losses over the last 15 years, according to the Pew Research Center. USPS is a government agency but doesn’t receive taxpayer funds, instead using revenue from commercial activities to self-fund its work.