MILLEDGEVILLE — The U.S. Postal Service announced Wednesday, Feb. 6 it plans to cut back to five-day-a-week deliveries for everything except packages to stem financial losses totaling $15.9 billion in the past budget year.
The planned change is scheduled to take effect Aug. 5.
Mail such as letters and magazines would be affected. Delivery of packages of all sizes would continue six days a week.
Under the new plan, mail would be delivered to homes and businesses only from Monday through Friday but would still be delivered to post office boxes on Saturdays. Post offices now open on Saturdays would remain open.
The Postal Service said it expected to save $2 billion annually with the Saturday cutback.
The plan brought vigorous objections from the letter carriers' union and others. Cutting six-day routes to five could affect daily delivery times considering operators have shorter windows to handle their load.
Fredric Rolando, president of the National Association of Letter Carriers, wants the Postal Service to hold off on service cuts and find other ways to rebalance finances.
Congress has voted in the past to bar the idea of eliminating Saturday delivery, and the USPS announcement immediately drew protests from some lawmakers.
Over the past several years, the Postal Service has advocated shifting to a five-day delivery schedule for mail and packages - and it repeatedly but unsuccessfully has appealed to Congress to approve the move. An independent agency, the service gets no tax dollars for its day-to-day operations but is subject to congressional control.
Postal officials pleaded Congress to give them the flexibility to better manage the agency - including freeing it from a federal mandate that they prepay for $11 billion in expected retiree health care costs.
Considering its annual operations alone, the agency actually made $100 million delivering the mail, but the health care funding and some other expenses pushed it to a net loss.
The agency essentially wants Congress to keep the ban out of any new spending bill after the temporary measure expires March 27.
Republican House Speaker John Boehner weighed in Feb. 6.
"I think trying to act in this postal area is pretty difficult. But I understand where the postal commission is coming from. They're charged with running the post office, but yet the Congress, in its wisdom, has tied their hands every which way in order for them to actually run the post office in a revenue neutral way."
The plan accentuates that package delivery has increased by 14 percent since 2010, while the delivery of letters and other mail has plummeted.
Regional USPS representative Stephen Seewoester said single piece first-class mail volumes are down 37 percent. Local post office numbers mirror the decline.
“That's really what's driving the change we're having to make,” Seewoester said.
He credits the technological change in the way people communicate for the Postal Service adaptation.
Email has decreased the mailing of paper letters, but online purchases have increased package shipping, forcing the Postal Service to adjust to customers' new habits.
The Postal Service clearly thinks it has a majority of the American public on its side.
A recent Postal Service survey said 80 percent of Americans support the new six-day package, five-day mail delivery schedule. The survey, conducted between Feb. 8 and 11, shows consistently high support for the new six-day package, five-day mail delivery schedule among urban, suburban, and rural communities as well as among all age groups and income levels.
“These survey results illustrate the strong public support for our new delivery schedule in communities across the country,” Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe said via press release. “The American public understands the financial challenges of the Postal Service and supports this new delivery schedule as a prudent, responsible and reasonable approach to address our urgent financial situation.”
Support rose to 85 percent among all respondents when asked if they would support the new delivery schedule if it helped stabilize the financial situation of the Postal Service.
“I think most people understand we are trying to address that the best way we can,” Seewoester said.
The Postal Service is in the midst of a major restructuring throughout its retail, delivery and mail processing operations. Since 2006, it has cut annual costs by about $15 billion, reduced the size of its career workforce by 193,000, or 28 percent, and has consolidated more than 200 mail processing locations, officials say.
The Associated Press contributed to this news report.
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