Efforts by the U.S. Postal Service to stave off bankruptcy may hasten its own demise according to Maine Sen. Susan Collins, the top Republican on the Senate committee that oversees the post office, in response to the agency’s latest plan for unprecedented cuts to first-class mail next spring that will slow delivery and (for the first time in 4 decades) eliminate the chance for stamped letters to arrive the next day.
“Time and time again in the face of more red ink, the Postal Service puts forward ideas that could well accelerate its death spiral,” she said, urging passage of a bill that would refund nearly $7 billion the Postal Service overpaid into a federal retirement fund, encourage a restructuring of health benefits and reduce the agency’s annual payments into a retiree health account.
That measure would postpone a move to five-day-a-week mail delivery for at least two years and require additional layers of review before the agency closed postal branches and mail processing centers.
Although the changes are designed to save $3 billion in operating expenses, they may eventually push more businesses onto the Internet and effect everything from receiving paychecks to how people receive everything from mail-order prescriptions when needed to Netflix DVDs, as well as “ threaten the existence of newspapers and time-sensitive magazines delivered by postal carrier to far-flung suburban and rural communities.”
“The solution to the Postal Service’s financial crisis is not easy but must involve tackling more significant expenses that do not drive customers,” Collins said.
The Post Office cuts, now being finalized, would close roughly half of the 500 mail processing centers across the country as early as next March. Because the consolidations typically would lengthen the distance mail travels from post office to processing center, the agency also would lower delivery standards for first-class mail that have been in place since 1971.
Currently, first-class mail is supposed to be delivered to homes and businesses within the continental U.S. in one day to three days. That will stretch out deliveries to 2-3 days, resulting in the fact that mailers would no longer be able to depend on getting their material to surrounding communities overnight. In addition, periodicals could take between 2-9 days to arrive at their destinations.
According to the Associated Press, approximately “42% of first-class mail is now delivered the next day. An additional 27% arrives in two days, about 3% in three days and less than 1% in four days to five days. Following the change next spring, about 51% of all first-class mail is expected to arrive in two days, with most of the remainder delivered in three days.”