Entries in Post Offices (8)


USPS Offices Won't Close, Instead Cut Hours

Joe Raedle/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- After 10 months of angst and outrage that spanned from rural Montana to Capitol Hill, the U.S. Postal Service announced Wednesday that the 3,700 post offices targeted in May for closing will remain open.

Instead, USPS plans to reduce the hours of operation at 13,000 rural post offices from a full eight-hour day to between two and six open hours per day, a move that the struggling mail service claims will save about $500 million per year.

“This is a win-win,” Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe said at a news conference Wednesday. “The bottom line is that any rural community that wants to retain their post office will be doing that.”

Under the new plan, about 9,000 current full-time postal employees will be reduced to part time and lose their benefits after the offices they work at are put got to two to four open hours per day. Another 4,000 full-time employees will see their hours reduced to part-time, but will retain their benefits. These workers will be at post offices whose hours are reduced to six hours per day.

“If we can shrink the labor cost we can keep the building open, that’s not hard to do, and ensure that customers have access,” Donahoe said.

Even though many post offices will have vastly reduced operating hours, people will still be able to access their P.O. boxes all day.

“We think this is the responsible thing to do,” Donahoe said. “Any company that listens to their customers would come up with a good solution like this.”

But House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, who has co-sponsored a postal reform bill in the House, said today’s plan only addresses a small fraction of the Postal Service’s massive budget shortfall. Rural post offices that will be impacted by the plan account for less than one-eighth of the $5 billion USPS spends each year on operating post offices, Issa said in a statement.

“To achieve real savings creating long-term solvency, the Postal Service needs to focus on consolidation in more populated areas where the greatest opportunities for cost reduction exist,” Issa said.

Under the plan announced last summer, the Postal Service was reviewing 800 urban post offices for possible closure. All of those city offices, many of which are clustered within blocks of each other, will remain untouched under the current plan.

The postmaster general noted that USPS’s plan to reduce operating hours achieves only a fraction of the $22.5 billion in cuts necessary to put the Postal Service back in the black. The USPS has posted a multi-billion budget shortfall last year in part because first class mail volume has plummeted 28 percent over the past decade.

Donahoe is also pushing for a plan to reduce mail delivery to five days per week and reform the postal employee retirement system, but has to have Congressional approval to implement either item. Postal reform is currently caught in a tug-of-war between the House and the Senate.

The postmaster general set a goal for Congress to pass, and the president to sign, comprehensive postal reform by this summer.

The Postal Service aims to start reducing office hours at selected rural post offices starting around Labor Day and have all 13,000 offices now under review operating under reduced hours, consolidated with a nearby post office or local business or closed in favor of rural delivery by the fall of 2014.

Brennan said she expects that “very few” of these small-town post offices will close as communities opt for shorter hours instead.

Since USPS announced their decision to begin cutting post offices in July, 500 have already closed and will remain closed under the new plan. But the 400 offices that had been targeted for elimination will now remain open and operate for between two and six hours per day.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Senate to Vote on Postal Service Reform Bill?

Joe Raedle/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- For months, the Senate has attempted to pass a reform bill that would help the nation's ailing postal service.  And now, it looks like Tuesday could be the day lawmakers move forward with the legislation.

The U.S. Postal Service sorely needs help -- it's $12 billion in debt and faces the potential to run out of money as soon as the fall, agency officials have said.  The agency has had a 21 percent drop in mail over the last five years, faced with declining volume due to changing technology like email and bill payments online that has meant new challenges.

The Postmaster General has agreed to delay necessary closings of the anticipated 3,600 post offices nationwide until May 15 in order to give Congress the opportunity to help with legislation.  With that deadline less than a month away, the changes Congress make will change the face of the USPS and will directly impact how customers get their mail and how much they pay to send snail mail.

The bill up for consideration in the Senate, by Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., and Susan Collins, R-ME., is a major but measured piece of legislation.

It preserves overnight delivery and importantly maintains a six-day delivery for mail, widely seen by some as one of the simplest reforms to save the postal service.  The bill requires two more years of studies to determine whether to switch to five-day delivery would be viable.  It would help the institution modernize to meet the technological challenges they have been facing by calling for the appointment of a “chief innovation officer” to find new ways to bring in postal revenue.

The bill would cut in half the number of mail processing centers the USPS currently wants to close -- from 252 to 125.

The bill would also slow, if not stop, many post office closings by forcing the agency to consider the special needs of rural communities and undergo additional layers of regulatory approval.  For instance, the Postal Service might have to downsize rather than close facilities, or factor in whether rural residents might have poor Internet service or have to travel longer road distances should a post office close.

In the meantime, the Postal Service would get a cash infusion of roughly $11 billion, basically a refund of overpayments it made in previous years to a federal retirement fund.  The agency could use the money to pay down debt and offer buyouts to 100,000 postal employees.

On Tuesday, the Senate will vote on a slew of amendments, including one that would limit government conference spending and calls for more transparency for conference spending.  Aides believe that the final vote on the post office bill could come as early as Tuesday night.

Meanwhile, the House of Representatives is pursuing their own legislation, as well.  The House committee on Oversight and Government Reform is currently crafting its own bill.  The GOP’s edition would block no-layoff clauses in labor agreements, and create an appointed commission to help the USPS scale back costs and move towards a five-day delivery week.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Congress Unsure Whether to Toss Last Lifeline to Postal Service

Joe Raedle/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Capitol Hill lawmakers only have a few weeks to decide whether to save the nearly bankrupt U.S. Postal Service.

Judging by some comments made Tuesday, the prospects don't look good for the post office as we know it.

There is talk about an $11 billion cash infusion so that the USPS could delay the close of processing centers and underperforming post offices, as well holding off suspending Saturday delivery.

In turn, the USPS would offer buyouts to 100,000 long-time employees, reduce various perks, including future retiree health benefits and raise the price of first-class postage to 50 cents.

Congress has until May 15 to make its decision, the deadline Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe gave before he starts mass closings and a possible end to six-day delivery service.

Sen. John McCain sounded like he was all ready to pull the plug during Tuesday's hearings.

The Arizona Republican said, "Instead of doing as some did when the Pony Express was replaced by the railroads and try to prop up a failing industry, let's find a graceful exit."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio´╗┐


US Postal Service Ups Rates of First-Class Letters and More

PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- In an effort to stay afloat, the United States Postal Service raised rates on Sunday for the first time since 2009.

As of now, it costs a penny more -- 45 cents -- to send a first-class letter and three cents more -- 32 cents -- to send a postcard.  Charges for letters sent to international destinations are also higher, costing either five or seven cents more depending on where they're being delivered.


Of course, these price increases alone won't be enough to save the USPS from possibly going belly-up by this summer.  There are plans in the works to close thousands of post offices and hundreds of processing centers, which will affect tens of thousands of jobs.  The end of Saturday deliveries is also a possibility.´╗┐

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


USPS to Hold Off on Post Office Closings Until May

PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- With massive layoffs and closings looming, the United States Postal Service has given itself a reprieve.

The USPS was prepared to shutter 250 mail processing plants that would have resulted in 28,000 layoffs beginning at the start of next year but with the clock ticking fast, the agency said it would hold off on any action until May 15.

This moratorium would presumably give Congressional lawmakers more time to find ways of reforming the post office so that first-class mail and Saturday deliveries would not be affected.

Still, with the USPS losing billions every year, agency officials say Washington's plans have to be bold and decisive.  Up to now, that hasn't been the case.

Illinois Democratic Sen. Richard Durbin, who is leading the effort to save the post office, challenged his fellow lawmakers on Tuesday "to put up or shut up."

Durbin said, "If you don't like what the postal service has put forward (to cut costs) by closing processing facilities and post offices and eliminating jobs, then come up with a better approach.  It's a challenge we need to accept, and this agreement with the postal service gives us that opportunity."

Meanwhile, unions, including the National Association of Letter Carriers, praised the temporary reprieve and expressed hope that Congress would come up with a solution to the crisis.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Awaiting Action, US Postal Service Hanging on by a Thread

PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The United States Postal Service is very close to hitting panic mode as time continues to wind down to save the beleaguered agency.

On Monday, Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe said that taken separately, bills by the House and Senate would result in only one year of profitability and a decade of continued deep losses.  He argued that the only salvation is to combine the best elements of both measures so that "Congress can provide the Postal Service with the legal framework and the business model it needs."

Struck by declining business since 2006 because of electronic mail and the recession, the Postal Service stands to lose $14.1 billion during the 2012 fiscal year.

Among other things, the USPS is recommending the adoption of a new health benefit plan through Medicare, which could result in a savings of $20 billion over a decade.  The agency also wants Congress to stop requiring the Postal Service to pay in advance for future retirees’ health benefits.

Meanwhile, the USPS is currently in the middle of negotiations with its two biggest unions, the National Association of Letter Carriers and the National Postal Mailhandlers Union.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


US Postal Service Lost $5.1 Billion in 2011

PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Despite closing down under-used post offices and reducing its work force, the U.S. Postal Service still faced a hefty loss during its 2011 fiscal year.

The USPS reported on Tuesday that between Oct. 1, 2010 and Sept. 30, 2011, it lost $5.1 billion.  The agency added that had it not been for the postponement of Congressionally mandated payments to pre-fund retiree health benefits, losses would have more than doubled to approximately $10.6 billion.

Postal officials said the amount of First-Class mail -- USPS' largest and most profitable product -- declined faster than expected, falling 1.7 percent from last year.  Income was up from Priority Mail, however, which is often used to deliver packages people order online.

The Postmaster General warned that more losses could come if Congress doesn't step in and help.

“The Postal Service can become profitable again if Congress passes comprehensive legislation to provide us with a more flexible business model so we can respond better to a changing marketplace,” Postmaster General and CEO Patrick Donahoe said.  “To return to profitability we must reduce our annual costs by $20 billion by the end of 2015.  We continue to take aggressive cost-cutting actions in areas under our control and urgently need Congress to do its part to get us the rest of the way there.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Postal Service Pushes to End Saturday Delivery

PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- America’s second-largest employer is in dire straits and it’s all the Internet’s fault.

The U.S. Postal Service is facing an $8.3 billion budget shortfall this year, in large part because of losing almost half of its first class mail to online bill pay and email communication.

After laying off 110,000 employees and cutting $12 billion over the past four years, the service is now looking to end mail delivery on Saturdays, a move it said would save $3.1 billion per year.

“That’s savings that we desperately need,” said U.S. Postal Service spokesman David Partenheimer.  “It’s not the only thing we need to do to get out of the financial hole but it is very important.”

But even within the postal system, there is disagreement over whether a five-day delivery system will actually solve the problem.  Despite not delivering mail, post offices would stay open, express or overnight mail would still be delivered and P.O. boxes would still receive mail.

The Postal Regulatory Commission, a president-appointed agency that oversees the Postal Services’ operations to ensure it doesn’t abuse its monopoly, estimated that cutting a delivery day would take three years to fully implement and would only save $1.7 billion per year thereafter.

“The key factor is that the Postal Service thinks it can take all the mail that it would otherwise deliver on Saturday and deliver it on Monday with no extra cost,” said regulatory commission chairman Ruth Goldway.  “When we look at the operations, it just can’t happen.”

Despite not receiving any taxpayer money, the USPS is technically a government agency, so in order to eliminate a delivery day it has to get Congressional approval.  Partenheimer said it has been trying to get approval since 2009, but this is the first year any legislation has been introduced.

While a shortened delivery schedule would help close the budget gap, both Partenheimer and Goldway said the real issue is the $5.5 billion the Postal Service has to pay every year into a fund for the health benefits of its future retirees.

Goldway said without the retiree fund payments, which were mandated starting in 2006, the mail service would be posting profits.

As it stands now, USPS will not be able to make the payment by its September due date, Postmaster General Patrick Donahue told USA Today on Wednesday.

"On Sept. 20, I won't be able to pay my bills," Donahue said.

If USPS cannot pay for its employees health care costs during retirement, that burden will fall to the federal government, a House Oversight Committee staffer said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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