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Postal System Asks for Help With Financial Losses

The postal system has suffered extensive losses since the September 11 terrorist attacks and Postmaster General John Potter said he does not believe that financial burden should fall on the people who buy stamps.

“They should be considered costs of homeland security,” Potter told a Senate Appropriations subcommittee today. “The attacks that began on Sept. 11 were acts of war. They have resulted in costs and business impacts that simply could not have been anticipated.”

Two postal workers in Washington DC died of inhalation anthrax last month and several more are being treated for inhalation or cutaneous infections after someone sent at least three letters containing anthrax through the postal system. Officials suspect that there were more anthrax-laced letters that were not identified.

According to Potter, the terrorist attacks have cost the postal system around $3 billion dollars. That cost includes damages to facilities on Sept. 11 as well as medical costs and equipment needs incurred by the anthrax scare.

“The most significant of these expenses are the purchase of equipment to sanitize mail, and the modification of our systems and processes necessary to accommodate the new security measures,” Potter said.

The postal system has also suffered a loss of revenue since the attacks as fewer people have been using the system. In the four weeks after Sept. 11 there were 6.6 billion fewer mail items than the same period a year ago.

Potter said that decrease in customers may translate into $2 billion in lost revenue in the coming months. Even before the attacks, the postal system had expected to lose $1.35 billion this year and was seeking a three cent rate increase to take effect next year.

“I don’t know that there is much enthusiasm for ‘bailing out,’ the Postal Service,” said Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle. “They have ways of addressing their need for resources and they ought to use them.”

President Bush also said Tuesday that he would veto any additional spending beyond the $40 billion Congress appropriated after the Sept. 11 airliner hijackings. That money was appropriated before the anthrax scare.

Between Sept. 8 and Nov. 2, the postal service has cut 11.5 million hours to save money. They are not considering laying off workers, Potter said, but will continue to eliminate positions through attrition.

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