Key House Panel Passes HR 22
06/24/2009 - A House subcommittee has approved an amended version of H.R. 22, legislation that would provide temporary relief from a provision of the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act that requires the Postal Service to prefund the healthcare benefits of future retirees. The funding obligation — combined with the nation’s sharp economic downturn — has brought the USPS to the brink of insolvency.
The amended bill, offered June 24 by Subcommittee Chairman Stephen Lynch (D-MA), provides three years of relief — for Fiscal Years 2009, 2010, and 2011. During that period, payments for the healthcare benefits of current retirees would be paid for from the Retiree Health Benefits Fund (RHBF) rather than the USPS operating budget.
APWU President William Burrus praised the subcommittee’s vote. “This bill is absolutely essential to the ability of the Postal Service to meet its short-term obligations,” he said.
“But it is not the end of the road. The Postal Service — along with its employees and customers – will continue to face significant challenges in the years ahead.”
If the bill becomes law, the USPS would be required once again to pay the cost of healthcare benefits for both current and future retirees in Fiscal Year 2012 and would be required to continue payments until 2016; at that point the Postal Service’s portion of future retirees’ benefits would be paid from the RHBF. The fund currently has a balance in excess of $32 billion.
Following unanimous approval of the amended bill, the Federal Workforce, Postal Service, and District of Columbia Subcommittee referred the bill for consideration by the full House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, chaired by Rep. Edolphus Towns (D-NY).
Consideration of H.R. 22 by the House of Representatives is likely to occur following the July 4 congressional recess, said Myke Reid, director of the APWU Legislative and Political Department. Legislation on this issue has not yet been introduced in the Senate.