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U.S. Postal Service lost $1.5 billion in the first three months of 2015

This photo taken July 27, 2012 shows a mailbox outside a US Post Office in Lawrence, Mich. The U.S. Postal Service is bracing for a first-ever default on billions in payments due to the Treasury, adding to widening uncertainty about the mail agency's solvency as first-class letters plummet and Congress deadlocks on ways to stem the red ink. Credit: AP

The U.S. Postal Service posted a net operating loss of $1.5 billion in the first quarter of 2015, which is actually an improvement from the $1.9 billion it lost in the first quarter of 2014.

USPS has been bleeding money for years, in part because of lower mail volumes, but also because of the huge benefit costs for its retired workers that it is required by law to fund upfront. Democrats in particular have argued that this prefunding requirement is making it impossible for the mail carrier to operate at all.

This photo taken July 27, 2012 shows a mailbox outside a US Post Office in Lawrence, Mich. The U.S. Postal Service is bracing for a first-ever default on billions in payments due to the Treasury, adding to widening uncertainty about the mail agency's solvency as first-class letters plummet and Congress deadlocks on ways to stem the red ink. Credit: AP The U.S. Postal Service said it lost $1.5 billion in the first quarter, amid a bit less than the $1.9 billion it lost a year earlier. Credit: AP

USPS said that without the requirement to prefund retiree health benefits, its net loss would have only been $44 million, not $1.5 billion.

USPS also said it's "controllable income," which is a measure of net income that ignores benefits funding and other factors out of its control, actually rose $52 million to $313 million compared to a year earlier.

Republicans and Democrats have not been able to reach a basic agreement on how to deal with the problem. As a result, the USPS has been forced to close hundreds of its offices around the country.

While benefit funding remains a major issue, USPS noted that the way people are using the mail is also hurting the bottom line. First class and standard mail volumes fell by 2.1 and 1.1, respectively, according to USPS.

And while the volume of packages being moved rose 14.4 percent compared to the same quarter a year ago, revenues on those packages are generally lower. In addition, USPS says it will soon need to upgrade its delivery trucks.

USPS ended the quarter with $6.1 billion in cash, which is says represents 22 days of operating money.

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