Ellsworth event to focus on Postal Service problems

Posted Jan. 31, 2012, at 6:22 p.m.

ELLSWORTH, Maine — Members of Occupy Ellsworth will join local postal workers on Wednesday for a “community teach-in” to discuss financial challenges facing the U.S. Postal Service and to call for a campaign to address a major factor in those challenges.

The free event, called “How to Save America’s Postal Service,” will be held at 7 p.m. in the upstairs auditorium of Ellsworth City Hall.

Organizers of the forum want Congress to eliminate the requirement that the Postal Service set aside about $5.5 billion a year to cover future costs of the service’s health care plan for retirees. That requirement was enacted under the 2006 Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act and requires the Postal Service to set aside nearly $59 billion between 2007 and 2016.

Critics claim that obligation — combined with declining demand for first-class mail — is the major reason for the service’s budget problems. To address the financial shortfall, postal service officials have proposed closing facilities across the country, including the mail processing and distribution center in Hampden and potentially 30 post offices in Maine, as well as delivering mail only five days a week and other cutbacks.

Members of Occupy Ellsworth, postal workers and some customers contend Congress could avoid closures, layoffs and cuts to service by eliminating the required “pre-funding” of the retiree health plans. Top officials within the postal service also are asking Congress to eliminate or relax the pre-funding requirement.

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