Moving may not be quite the bonus it has been for some senior executives at the Postal Service.

After criticism in May by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), the Postal Service has drastically curtailed a moving-expense bonus program for senior executives, ending payments of up to $25,000 that allowed officials to pocket thousands of unspent dollars.

The bonuses, which supplement government payments for housing assistance and shipment of household goods, will be capped at two weeks' salary. For senior executives earning about $165,000, the limit would slightly exceed $6,300.

Thomas G. Day, the Postal Service's senior vice president for government relations, revealed the bonus change in a letter last month to Grassley, who had questioned whether they had anything to do with rate increases for stamps. Day said the program and the rate increases were unrelated, adding that the mail agency has been reviewing the moving-expense policy for some time and modified it effective Oct. 11.

Grassley said he was satisfied. "I understand the need for a miscellaneous relocation allowance, but I feel that past payments of $10,000, $25,000, and in one case, $50,000 were excessive and amounted to an abuse of the system," he wrote in a letter.

Under the previous policy, most executives who qualified received expense payments of $10,000 or $25,000.

When the Associated Press originally reported on the bonuses in May, the mail service defended the program as a way of easing transitions to new, sometimes more expensive cities and ensuring that executives would not be lured away by competitors. But often $10,000 was much more than was needed to move, for example, into a two-bedroom apartment, probably leaving the employee thousands of dollars to pocket.

One senior vice president received $75,000 -- $25,000 each for three moves from June 1998 to February 2001. The mail service gave 265 executives $10,000 each and 10 others $25,000 each in the past two years, according to information gathered by Finance Committee investigators.

-- Associated Press