The United States Postal Service, which has regularly lost money for years, may need an emergency rate hike in order to continue operating.
That was the message delivered by Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe on Thursday to the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, testifying that his agency is in "the midst of a financial disaster."
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"The Postal Service as it exists today is financially unsustainable," Donahoe said, according to The Associated Press
, echoing his sentiment to Congress during the past several months.
The post office expects to lose $6 billion this year, and it lost $16 billion in 2012.
Donahoe asked lawmakers Thursday to enact legislation to fix the mail delivery agency's finances. Absent government help, the USPS's already significant losses will worsen.
"The Postal Service is quickly moving down a path that leads to becoming a massive, long-term burden to the American taxpayer," Donahoe testified, according to the AP.
The Postal Service's board of governors could decide by next week to seek a special rate boost, the AP said. Federal law prohibits the post office from increasing prices more than the inflation rate without approval from the independent Postal Regulatory Commission.
Postage last went up Jan. 27, when a first-class stamp went to 46 cents, up by one cent.
Among cost-cutting measures being considered are ending Saturday mail delivery and door-to-door delivery, which would save $2 billion each year, according to the agency, though many lawmakers and postal-worker unions argue that would inconvenience customers.
To generate revenue, the Postal Service could ship alcoholic beverages to compete with private shippers such as FedEx and UPS under a bipartisan proposal by the committee's chairman, Tom Carper, (D-Del.), and Tom Coburn (R-Okla.).
"Whether it happens today, next month, or next year, it's likely that postal customers will need to sacrifice at least some of the conveniences they enjoy today," Carper told the AP.
The bill would end door-to-door service for new residential and business addresses to help shift to curbside and cluster box delivery, which costs less. The Senate plan also includes changes in the way pensions and retiree health care costs are calculated, as the agency attempts to pool its finances.
"We've lost 27 percent of our mail over the course of the last five to six years," Donahoe said earlier this year, CBS News reported
. "And when that happens, you have to make changes."
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