In an effort to cut costs, the struggling United States Postal Service has announced it will stop delivering mail on Saturdays, but will continue to deliver packages.
Saturday service is expected to stop during the week of August 5 and should save the USPS about $2 billion each year, according to USPS CEO and Postmaster General Patrick R. Donahoe. The new plan would deliver mail to homes and businesses from Monday through Friday, but mail will still be delivered to post office boxes on Saturdays. Post offices that are currently open on Saturdays will keep that schedule.
The USPS has supported a five-day delivery schedule for the past few years, but Congress never approved the measure. Although the agency is independent and receives no tax money for daily operations, it can still be subject to congressional control.
A ban on five-day delivery was included in Congress' appropriations bill, but the government is currently operating under a temporary spending measure and not an appropriations bill so, according to Donahoe, the USPS feels it can make the decision on its own.
The measure is basically asking Congress not to reinstate the ban when the current spending measure expires on March 27. Donahoe says he is willing to work with Congress on the issue and believes the majority of the country will agree with the change.
However, Fredric Rolando, president of the National Association of Letter Carriers believes the idea is "disastrous" that would have a negative effect on both the USPS and customers, particularly businesses, the elderly, rural communities, and disabled persons.
According to Donahoe, the plan will include a combination of employee reassignment and attrition.
In November, the USPS reported an annual loss of $15.9 billion for the previous budget year. It also had to default on billions of dollars in health benefit prepayments for retirees in order to avoid bankruptcy. The agency has forecasted more losses for the upcoming year.
The majority of the agency's financial issues comes from a 2006 Congressional measure that requires it to set aside $55 million in an account to cover medical costs for retirees. That account would be built over ten years with $5.5 billion added each year. However, the USPS does not have the funds to contribute to that account. The USPS is the only government agency required to form such an account for future medical benefits.
Since 2006, the agency has cut annual costs by approximately $15 billion through a 28 percent reduction of its workforce and the consolidation of over 200 mail processing locations.
Local branch president of the National Association of Letter Carriers, Kelly Pruka thinks the solution lies elsewhere. She says expanding the service is a better idea.
According to Pruka, 20% of letter carriers across the nation will lose their jobs including around 50 carriers in the Rockford area.
But a local independent postal business doesn't see how the change would be bad. Larry Hinkle is the VP of "The Postal Shoppe". He says patrons he's spoken with don't seem bothered by no service on Saturdays.
Hinkle also doesn't think businesses like "The Postal Shoppe will be affected by the changes.
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