Major changes to the United States Postal Service, not seen since 2006, have made their way through Congress in a move hailed by retailers and other industry groups.
Senator Gary Peters (D-Mich.) introduced the bill in the Senate with Rob Portman (R-Ohio), with the legislation approved Tuesday in a vote of 79 to 19.
“This bill, which has been 15 years in the making, will finally help the Postal Service overcome burdensome requirements that threaten their ability to provide reliable service to the American people,” Peters said in a statement.
Representatives Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) and James Comer (R-Ky.) introduced the House version of the bill, which was passed last month in a vote of 342 to 92.
The bill now awaits signing by President Biden.
Industry groups and companies backing the Postal Service overhaul included the National Retail Federation (NRF), Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA) and Amazon, given retailers’ reliance on USPS for deliveries.
The changes come as companies apply greater scrutiny across the supply chain given the surge in e-commerce orders, with calls to modernize and increase efficiencies in the nation’s goods movement system.
“With the continued growth in e-commerce and pandemic-driven shopping trends, it is more important than ever to have a healthy and reliable postal system that delivers to every ZIP code,” NRF Senior Vice President for Government Relations David French said in a statement. “The reforms made in the bill will update the Postal Service for the modern economy and complement current USPS initiatives to provide services and solutions to retailers of all sizes.”
The legislation calls for major changes to the operations of USPS with an eye on ensuring the Postal Service’s financial health longer term.
Among the changes is automatic enrollment of USPS retirees to Medicare and putting an end to a previous requirement that the retirees’ health benefits be pre-funded by the Postal Service. Those two actions combined are expected to save $49 billion across the next decade.
The bill also requires continued delivery of at least six days a week, eliminating the possibility of future service reductions.
Greater visibility and accountability in service is also accounted for in the bill.
The legislation carves out a requirement for a public dashboard where USPS will report its financial results and service performance information will also be made available. The Postal Service would also be required to report regularly to Congress on its operating and financial performance.
Amazon, in response to the Senate vote, said Tuesday it is “thrilled to see this smart, bipartisan bill that shores up USPS’s finances and preserves six-day delivery of mail and packages on its way to becoming law.”
The company said last year at the time of the legislation’s introduction the bill would “help strengthen the USPS’s financial and operational arms, and ensure the agency could continue to provide reliable service to the American people and serve as an excellent delivery and logistics provider.”
The e-commerce behemoth said it considers USPS its “first and oldest business partner.”
Other endorsers of the legislation include Hallmark, Publishers Clearing House, American Postal Workers Union and Association of National Advertisers.