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Postal Service closes fiscal year with record $15.9b loss

WASHINGTON — The Postal Service reported a record $15.9 billion net loss Thursday for the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, bringing the financially troubled agency another step closer to insolvency.

The expected loss, more than triple the service’s loss last year, included accounting expenses of $11.1 billion related to two payments that the agency was supposed to make into a future retiree health benefits fund. But because of revenue losses, the agencywas for the first time forced to default on these payments, which were due in August and October.

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Nearly $5 billion in other losses were because of a dip in revenue from mailing operations. The agency also reached its $15 billion borrowing limit from the Treasury.

Despite its financial woes, officials said the agency would continue to operate as usual and that employees and suppliers would be paid on time.

The agency had warned that it could face a $100 million cash crunch in October because of a drop in revenue. But it reported more than $500 million in revenue from candidates, political parties, and other interest groups sending out campaign mail before the election. The agency said revenue from political mail and the holiday season should help its cash situation until Congress acts to overhaul the Postal Service.

The agency’s financial reports show that mail volume continues to decline as Americans have increasingly turned to electronic forms of communication. Total mail volume was 159.9 billion pieces, down 5 percent from 168.3 billion pieces a last year. Operating revenue was $65.2 billion, down from $65.7 billion during the same period.

For nearly a year, the agency has been urging Congress to pass legislation that would allow it to save costs including cutting back the number of days it delivers mail to five days a week, reducing annual payments required for its future retiree health fund and entering into new lines of business such as delivering beer and wine by mail.

Patrick R. Donahoe, the postmaster general, says Congress needs to act fast.

“It’s critical that Congress do its part and pass comprehensive legislation before they adjourn this year to move the Postal Service further down the path toward financial health,’’ Donahoe said.

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