HAZARD – In a move that is expected to save $2 billion annually, the United States Postal Service announced on Wednesday a partial end to Saturday mail delivery.
The move will take effect in August and will halt the delivery of all letters and first class mail on Saturday. Packages will continue to be delivered, while post offices will also remain open on Saturday so that customers will be able to ship packages or check their post office boxes, according to a USPS statement released on Wednesday, which added that seven out of 10 Americans support the shift to five-day delivery.
“The American public understands the financial challenges of the Postal Service and supports these steps as a responsible and reasonable approach to improving our financial situation,” said U.S. Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe. “The Postal Service has a responsibility to take the steps necessary to return to long-term financial stability and ensure the continued affordability of the U.S. Mail.”
The Postal Service has remained in dire financial straits for the past few years, reporting in November that the service lost $15.9 billion in fiscal year 2012, including $11.1 billion to pre-fund retiree health benefits. USPS officials at the time urged legislative changes such as allowing the Postal Service to determine delivery frequency and the ability to offer non-postal products and services among others.
Increased use of the Internet has also played a role in the Postal Service’s decline in revenue, as more people use electronic mail rather than opt for traditional mail service.
The Postal Service, which receives no tax money for its operation and relies solely on the sale of postage and products, says package delivery has been a bright spot financially with 14 percent growth since 2010, and projections showing continued growth throughout the next decade.
Locally, the loss of Saturday delivery could have an effect on private businesses, noted Cokie Cox of Hazard. Cox formerly owned a mobile home business in Hazard and owns a parts store, and said while he understands the Postal Service’s need to cut back, cutting Saturday delivery could hold up other businesses.
“I’m semi out of business, but I’ve still got some business going on,” Cox said. “I understand they have to cut back because they’re way in debt, but I don’t know if that’s the best answer or not.”
For some, however, a halt in delivery of mail on Saturday won’t cause a major hindrance.
“I don’t think so,” said Viper resident Bobby Morris. “We don’t have a whole lot of bills, but other than that it wouldn’t really affect me.”
Halting Saturday delivery is not a new concept. Postal Service officials have floated the possibility before, as has President Obama, though Congress scrapped the idea.
In a statement released Wednesday, National Rural Letter Carriers’ Association President Jeanette P. Dwyer urged lawmakers to instead address what she said was the main reason for the Postal Service’s revenue shortfall.
“Since 2006 the Postal Service has been mandated by law to pre-fund future retiree health benefits, a 75-year obligation, in only 10 years,” Dwyer said. “This has left them drowning in red ink. While no other federal agency or business is burdened by such an extreme pre-funding requirement, the Postal Service is shackled and left to fail. Congress must act immediately to rectify this situation, or else risk harming many businesses and individuals and eliminating millions of jobs across the country.”