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WASHINGTON (AP) - The post office will run out of money this year unless it gets help, Postmaster General John Potter told Congress on Wednesday as he sought permission to cut delivery to five days a week. "We are facing losses of historic proportion. Our situation is critical," Potter told a House panel. The agency lost $2.8 billion last year and is looking at much larger losses this year. Reducing mail delivery from six days to five days a week could save $3.5 billion annually, Potter said. Potter also urged changes in how the post office pre-pays for retiree health care to cut its annual costs by $2 billion. If the Postal Service does run out of money, the lingering question, Potter told the House Oversight post office subcommittee, is which bills will be paid and which will not. Ensuring the payment of workers' salaries comes first, he said, but other bills may have to wait. Potter first raised the possibility of delivery cutbacks in January, but the idea has not been warmly received in Congress. "With the Postal Service facing budget shortfalls, the subcommittee will consider a number of options to restore financial stability and examine ways for the Postal Service to continue to operate without cutting services," subcommittee chairman Stephen F. Lynch, D-Mass., said. Lynch said the financial stability of the Postal Service is "critical to the American expectation of affordable six-day mail delivery." Even if the agency succeeds in reaching its planned cost cuts of $5.9 billion, there could still be a $6 billion deficit in 2010, Potter said. "Without a change we will exhaust our cash resources," he said. "We can no longer afford business as usual." Asked if layoffs would occur, Potter said it is possible but he hopes avoidable.