USPS Has Fallen On Hard Times – Can LiteBlue Save It
The United States Postal Service is one of the largest semi-independent federal agencies in the United States, only being partially supported by tax dollars. However, just like every other staple agency in the country USPS has fallen onto difficult times, and are implementing plenty of changes and contemplating more dramatic changes for the near future.
Let’s start with the positive, USPS employees are now able to use LiteBlue and “eRetire.” The new streamlined service allows employees to navigate their way through different retirement plans available through LiteBlue from the comfort of their home. Using LiteBlue, the electronic process is applicable for employees who are within five years of retirement eligibility, and employees who are eligible for retirement immediately.
The simple LiteBlue / eRetire process allows full-time USPS employees login to the LiteBlue site and decide their retirement path step by step on the easy-to-use LiteBlue webpage. Full-time employees who meet the required eligibility specification can receive Federal Annuity estimates. Part-time employees and postal inspectors must still do manual inputs and contact the Human Resources Services Center to receive their annuity estimates in the mail.
USPS employees that are presently eligible for retirement, or at least within six months of retirement can perform the following tasks. Request, view and print their own annuity estimation based on employee retirement effect times and dates within 180 days. Additionally, employees within 180 days of retiring can order, print and download the Retirement Application Package. Prospective retirees can either perform this task on the LiteBlue webpage, or request the application package to be delivered to their home within seven to ten business days.
Furthermore, LiteBlue offers the opportunities transitioning employees to attend counseling sessions. Group sessions are also available for employees to exchange information; group sessions are available to employees who will enter into retirement within 90 days. The LiteBlue webpage displays all appointments dates, times and locations available for employees to choose from.
LiteBlue – Change is on the Horizon:
After a decade of consecutive years of operating underneath a mounting deficit in excess of $47 billion, the United States Postal Service is proposing some monumental changes that will greatly impact its 536,000 employees. The Postal Service is seeking congressional approval for dramatic cutback and changes to its current system. The USPS is proposing to implement its own and much cheaper health benefits program, administer its own retirement system and significantly reduce its workforce by 120,000 employees. In addition, USPS is also seeking the flexibility to adjust the mail delivery schedule; meaning that Saturday deliveries would be a thing of the past. Curbside and central pick up locations are also on the docket to become standard versus current door-to-door delivery.
But how did the Postal Service get to this point? There are a couple of key elements that have led USPS to the point it is at now. First, is USPS is legally tied to Congress. Since 2006, USPS has been required to prefund $5.5 billion for future retirees. Initially, the payment was not an issue because the Postal Service was strong and the recession had not hit. Secondly, the volume of mail which USPS services has dropped more than 20% with modern-day technology, and companies like FedEx and UPS gaining momentum.
Keeping the Postal Service’s economic hurdles in mind, there are plenty of potential sources for revenue are being tossed around the discussion board. Re-implementing the Postal Savings Program, allowing lower-class families who don’t utilize a private bank to cash their checks at much less inflated rate. The Postal Service is also considering offering email and/or internet service at a comparable rate to competitors. Other ideas include ending restrictions on shipment of wine and beer, sales of fishing and hunting licenses and notary services.
In addition, the White House has mandated that the $5.5 billion healthcare payments for 2015 and 2016 are deferred until 2017 and USPS being reimbursed $1.5 billion in over over-costs to the Office of Personal Management.
The proposed changes are a second-round of “fat trimming,” to the entity. Previously, the Postal Service has reduced its employee base by 212,000 and was able to bring operational costs down by $12 billion. In addition to the cutbacks, the Postal Service also raised the price of the stamp .03¢ in January of 2014 to offset the devastating blow of the recession. The new plan, proposed by President Obama for the 2016 fiscal budget is projected to save $36 billion over the next 11 years.
While all of the proposed changes make economic sense, the union adamantly opposes all suggested changes to policy and workforce, stating that it will violate contractual obligations and harm collective bargaining. But with the U.S. Postal Service seeing a $569 million revenue increase for the 2014 fiscal year, it shows that innovative ideas will make a difference in an acute situation. In the meantime, the Postal Service will await an answer from Congress to see if the proposed changes will come to fruition