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Postal Service sets record $15.9B loss

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By Reuters
Thursday, Nov. 15, 2012, 8:44 p.m.

WASHINGTON — The Postal Service on Thursday reported a record annual loss and warned that, without congressional action, it could face a cash shortfall next fall.

The mail service said it lost $15.9 billion in the fiscal year that ended on Sept. 30 — more than triple its $5.1 billion loss last year.

The Postal Service — which relies on the sale of stamps and other products rather than taxpayer dollars — has been grappling for years with high costs and tumbling mail volumes as consumers communicate more online.

In September, the Postal Service hit its $15 billion borrowing limit for the first time in its history. The agency has few options if it suffers an unexpected shock — such as a slowdown if lawmakers are unable to prevent the year-end tax increases and spending cuts known as the “fiscal cliff.”

“When you've got a $65 billion revenue business, and you are looking at the potential of this fiscal cliff, of course that may have an impact on advertising and whatnot, which could hurt us,” Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe.

“That's why we're saying let's get this thing done now ... and get us off of our own personal, postal fiscal cliff.”

Much of the agency's loss in 2012 came from two defaults on a total of more than $11 billion in payments that Congress directed the agency to pay into a fund for future retirees' health benefits.

The agency was unable to make the payments, but still must account for them in financial statements.

The Postal Service wants Congress to pass legislation that would allow the agency to end Saturday mail delivery and to run its own health plan rather than enrolling employees in federal health programs.

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