People pay bills and stay in touch with the Postal...

People pay bills and stay in touch with the Postal Service's help. Credit: Getty Images/Dia Dipasupil

Some overdue good news of a bipartisan kind could be en route to local mailboxes soon.

The Postal Service Reform Act, awaiting final action in Congress, would continue 6-day delivery, bolster the bureaucracy’s underlying finances, and go a long way to ensuring the post office remains a key institution in American life.

The importance of this sprawling behemoth is abundantly clear.

With the rise of mail-order pharmacies, many residents — especially veterans and senior citizens — use the mail to receive their medications. People pay bills and stay in touch with the U.S. Postal Service's help. Post office buildings themselves are an important presence in the lives of local communities.

The operation is staggering in size and complexity. The Postal Service likes to tout statistics estimating that it processes an average of 17.7 million mail pieces each hour, pays $2.1 billion in salaries and benefits every two weeks, and on an international scale, processes and delivers close to half the world’s mail volume.

Yet this crucial operation is threatened on multiple fronts. Mail is too frequently late. In recent years, the USPS has lost billions of dollars annually. Time and again the organization has lagged behind on technology and changing consumer demands and found itself hamstrung by poor decisions, its required duties, and governmental mandates.

The needed reforms would overhaul some major liabilities, saving billions by pushing employees to enroll in Medicare when eligible, and ditching a costly health benefits prefunding requirement.

The House of Representatives already has passed this significantly bipartisan compromise bill. It has been slowed in the Senate pending technical fixes, but is expected to be ready for a Senate vote in the coming weeks, according to Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s office.

The overhaul does not fix everything. While the USPS needs to upgrade its creaky vehicles, full electric adoption for the postal fleet is not addressed in this legislation. That’s unacceptable given the heavy use tens of thousands of postal vehicles get and the need to slash carbon emissions. This must not be another arena in which the Postal Service falls behind the technological curve. If the electric vehicle issue can’t be addressed in this measure, Congress must find another avenue.

The overhaul also sidesteps ensuring that the post office stays above politics — a real concern given the unconventional background of Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, who was a major donor to Republicans and supporter of former President Donald Trump. That, too, should be addressed separately, perhaps in legislation such as the House’s Nonpartisan Postmaster General Act that would clarify and further restrict political activities by postal leaders.

These are just some ways the post office should be strengthened to endure far into the future, efficiently and essentially connecting us all from coast to coast.

MEMBERS OF THE EDITORIAL BOARD are experienced journalists who offer reasoned opinions, based on facts, to encourage informed debate about the issues facing our community.