Postal Service to Delay Shutting Offices, Processing Centers

The U.S. Postal Service agreed not to close post offices or mail-processing facilities before May 15 to give Congress time to change laws restricting the service’s operations and finances, 15 U.S. senators said.

As part of the agreement, the Postal Service won’t have to make a $5 billion payment this year to prefund future health-care costs for retirees, Senator Bernard Sanders, a Vermont Independent, said today at a press conference in Washington.

Congress will look for ways to allow the Postal Service to be more “entrepreneurial,” Sanders said. Congress will seek to legalize the mailing of wine and beer and remove bans on the agency providing notary services and issuing hunting and fishing licenses, he said.

“I feel that if we just cut, cut, cut, it will create a death spiral that will make the agency a weaker and less efficient institution,” Sanders said.

The service, which is supposed to be self-supporting, last month predicted a $14.1 billion loss in 2012 as mail volume continues to drop. It asked its regulator Dec. 5 for permission to slow delivery of letters and bills to save $2.1 billion a year.

The service said in September it may close 252, or more than half, its mail-processing plants.

Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe has asked Congress, which oversees Postal Service activities, to allow him to break labor contracts; close 3,700, or 12 percent, of post offices; and end Saturday mail delivery.

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