WASHINGTON (AP) -
The Postal Service lost $354 million over the last three months, and
officials warned that mounting losses could lead to cash flow problems for
the rest of the year, the agency said Friday.
The loss was far
less than the $1.3 billion in the comparable quarter the previous fiscal
year, but Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe continued to press Congress to
give the agency more flexibility to manage its finances.
The report for the
financial quarter ending December 31 comes as Congress works toward fixing
the agency’s troubled finances. On Thursday, the Senate Homeland Security
and Governmental Affairs Committee approved a bill that would end Saturday
mail delivery and make permanent a temporary hike in the cost of a
first-class stamp, which went from 46 to 49 cents on Jan. 26.
The Senate measure
also would restructure a congressional requirement that forces the agency to
make a $5.6 billion annual payment for future retiree health benefits. The
Postal Service has been urging Congress to reform the service’s finances as
it continues to cope with steep financial losses. The Postal Service lost $5
billion in the last fiscal year, down from $15.9 billion in 2012.
“We cannot return
the organization to long-term financial stability without passage of
comprehensive postal reform legislation,” Donahoe said.
On the positive
side, the Postal Service said revenue grew by $334 million, driven by a 14.6
percent growth in shipping and package services that saw a boost from the
holiday season. But first-class mail declined 4.6 percent, as more customers
shift to the Internet to pay bills and send emails.
Postal unions have
complained that the Senate bill goes too far in calling for an end to
Saturday mail delivery once mail volume drops below 140 billion pieces over
four consecutive quarters. They claim the move would hurt consumers and lead
to thousands of job cuts.
The bulk of the
agency’s financial problems stem from the federally mandated annual payments
to cover expected health care costs for future retirees. It has defaulted on
three of those payments and warned Friday that it is likely to default again
when the next payment is due on Sept. 30.
The federal budget
bill that Congress approved last month requires six-day delivery to
continue, meaning the U.S. Postal Service won’t be able to cut Saturday mail