By Angela Greiling Keane
WASHINGTON - The U.S. Postal Service said its net loss last year widened to $15.9 billion, more than the $15 billion it had projected, as mail volume continued to drop, falling 5 percent.
Without action by Congress, the service will run out of cash on Oct. 15, 2013, after it makes a required workers compensation payment to the U.S. Labor Department and before revenue typically jumps with holiday season mailing, Chief Financial Officer Joe Corbett said.
The service, whose fiscal year ended Sept. 30, lost $5.1 billion a year earlier. It announced the net loss today at a meeting at its Washington headquarters.
“We are walking a financial tightrope,” Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe said at the meeting. “Will we ever stop delivering the mail? It will never happen. We are simply too important to the economy and the flow of commerce.”
The service is asking Congress to enact legislation before it adjourns this year that would allow the Postal Service to spread future retirees’ health-benefit payments over more years, stop Saturday delivery, and more easily close post offices and mail-processing plants.
Without legislative change, the service expects its losses to continue in the 2013 fiscal year, with a forecast loss of $7.6 billion, Corbett said.
“There is no margin of error,” given the low level of cash, he said. The service uses $250 million per day to operate.
Mail volume fell to 159.9 billion pieces, led by an 8 percent decrease in single-piece first-class items, the most profitable kind of mail that includes letters, cards and bill payments.
Operating revenue fell less than 1 percent to $65.2 billion for the year as the service cut work hours while delivering less mail.