Postal service seeks congressional rescue
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The U.S. Postal Service said Tuesday the anthrax mail attacks would cost the service well into the "billions of dollars" -- money it will seek to recoup from Congress.
Spokesman Azeezaly S. Jaffer called the expense a "one-time cost" stemming from the service's need to purchase sanitizing equipment and other clean-up measures to protect Americans from anthrax.
He said the revenue estimate for September 5 through October 8 is about $300 million less than the pre-September 11 projection and that mail volume has declined by 6.6 percent since the terrorist attacks.
Postmaster General John Potter will seek a congressional rescue when he testifies Thursday before a Senate panel, Jaffer said, because "it is not the intent of the Postal Service to pass this one-time rate" on to consumers with a rate hike.
"This attack is an unprecedented event," Jaffer said in a conference call with reporters. "We see this as a one-time expense that has occurred here. What we are dealing with here is a homeland security issue."
He would not elaborate on a specific figure but said Richard Strasser, the service's chief financial officer, estimated the attacks would cost "in the billions of dollars."
In another development, Jaffer said mail that was in the Brentwood facility when it closed on October 21 would begin to be delivered in the "next 24 to 48 hours."
The facility was shut down after it processed the anthrax-tainted letter sent to Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle. Two Brentwood employees died from inhalation anthrax.
The mail has been sent to a facility in Lima, Ohio, where it has been sanitized with electron beam technology. The Lima facility has been irradiating 750,000 pieces of mail daily, or about 28,000 pounds, Jaffer said.
The postal service has contracted with another company to help in the processing and cleaning of backlogged mail. The three-month, $2.4 million contract is with Chicago-based Ion Beam Applications Inc. to sanitize mail at a Bridgeport, New Jersey, facility.
"It will enable us to begin working through the existing backlog," Jaffer said.
He said mail is flowing smoothly throughout the nation, except in New York, New Jersey and the nation's capital.
The Postal Service is prepared to handle the increase in mail in the coming weeks as the holiday season begins, he said.
"We're looking to a very health holiday season," Jaffer said.
U.S. Postal Service
U.S. Department of Health & Human Services
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
U.S. Public Health Service
U.S. Department of Justice
Federal Bureau of Investigation
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