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Entries in Postal Service (6)

Monday
Jun252012

Post Office Cuts Hours to 30 Minutes Per Day

iStockPhoto/Thinkstock(SUGAR HILL, N.H.) -- If you want to mail a letter in Sugar Hill, N.H., you’d better be quick. The town’s postal unit has cut its hours of operation to a mere 30 minutes per day, sparking outrage from the rural community’s 563 residents that has now caught the attention of the state’s two U.S. Senators.

“We are concerned about both the nature of the changes in service and the manner in which they were made,” Sens. Kelly Ayotte, R- NH, and Jeanne Shaheen, D-NH, said in a letter to the Postal Service district manager on Friday, also calling for USPS to hold a community meeting.

The United States Postal Service (USPS) announced in May that instead of eliminating up to 3,700 post offices, it would instead reduce their hours of operation from 8 hours per day to between 2 and 4 hours, but only after holding community meetings.

In Sugar Hill, residents are scratching their heads as to why their office was stripped down from 3 hours to 30 minutes, and, moreover, why there was never a community meeting.

“We had no prior knowledge of this,” Lissa Boissonneault, the Sugar Hill town clerk and tax collector, told ABC News. “One day there was a sign and the next day it started and we are pretty upset.”

Boissonneault said the post office, "slapped a sign on the door late Friday afternoon" and by Saturday the new rules went into effect, which slashed the hours and eliminated all services except stamp sales and mail delivery.

But the USPS insists the Sugar Hill location is “not a post office” and therefore did not have to go through the requisite steps to reduce its hours. Tom Rizzo, the Postal Service spokesman for Northern New England, said Sugar Hill is a “very unique situation” and that there is no plan to cut post office hours back to 30 minutes nationwide.

“It’s an isolated change that actually brings Sugar Hill closer to the normal operation of similar units, but still allows for roughly double the service of other units of its kind and has no national implications,” Rizzo told ABC News.

Sue Brennan, a USPS spokeswoman, said that nationwide there are less than a dozen “non-personnel” units, such as the one in Sugar Hill.

Nearly 13,000 post offices across the country could see their hours reduced, although probably none as dramatically as in Sugar Hill. The USPS claims its plan to cut back operating hours will save the cash-strapped service $500 million per year and will be fully implemented by September 2014.

The plan is part of a broader initiative to try to fill the Postal Service’s multi-billion dollar budget shortfall. USPS posted a loss of $3.2 billion last quarter.

Click here to see if your Post Office’s hours are being cut.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
May092012

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

Monday
Jan232012

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.

[CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE ABOUT THE RATE CHANGES]


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

Wednesday
Sep072011

Administration Makes 11th Hour Effort to Rescue Postal Service

PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Can the White House make a special delivery to save the U.S. Postal Service?

To rescue the agency, it will take a 90-day extension by Congress on a $5.5 billion bill owed by the Postal Service in mandatory annual retirement payments -- the root of its financial woes.

If there's a grace period granted, the White House says it will craft a financial rescue plan to save the agency, which is threatening to shut down by the winter because of record shortfalls and a dwindling revenue stream.

Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry told a Senate panel Tuesday that three months will give officials enough time "to carefully work through the details of a proposal."

Postmaster General Patrick R. Donahoe painted a dire picture of the Postal Service's situation, explaining that it could lose as much as $10 billion and have just over a week's worth of money to pay salaries and expenses when the fiscal year ends on Sept. 30.

Sen. Joe Lieberman, an independent from Connecticut, said that the economy can ill-afford the Postal Service going broke and shutting down.  Meanwhile, Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins chastised the administration for waiting until now to try and come up with a plan to rescue the post office.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Sep062011

Do We Need the Postal Service?

Joe Raedle/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Is the post office a vital part of the economy or a money-losing dinosaur that delivers junk mail?

William Henderson, former postmaster general from 1998 to 2001, told ABC News Tuesday that there is a role for hard-mail delivery through the postal service’s automated infrastructure and especially for those with low-incomes behind the digital divide, but the business is dying.

“The postal service was by far and away the most efficient mail service in the world, but that efficiency doesn’t help you if you don’t have work,” Henderson said.

Congress’ Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs hosted a hearing at Tuesday afternoon called “U.S. Postal Service in Crisis: Proposals to Prevent a Postal Shutdown.” Even after proposing to close 3,700 offices over the next year, the U.S. postal service has a $9.2 billion deficit and is near a default.

Casey Chan of Gizmodo writes the postal service must innovate to stay alive. “Heck, the only thing I need a physical mailing address for these days is to get physical packages from Amazon, UPS and FedEx do just fine and do it with lower labor costs (53% of its expenses for UPS, 32% for FedEx compared with 80% with the USPS) -- the private delivery services just run more efficiently as a business,” Chan writes.

Henderson said the postal service has tried to improve its business with innovation ever since it released a report in 1976 that predicted electronic media would decrease physical mail delivery. Those ideas included adding an email address to every physical address, email certification services, and even offering Internet access in post offices. But those suggestions were often rebuffed because the government did not want “intrusions” on the Internet.

The postal service has tried business strategies with some success, including flat-rate boxes and television marketing. It also has a vision plan for 2013, which includes expanding web services through usps.com and mobile applications.

Henderson said he has long argued for privatization of the postal service, but no one has the “stomach” for that solution yet.

Sally Davidow, spokeswoman for the American Postal Workers Union, said the need for the postal service is evident from the large outcry after it announced plans to close post offices. The postal service has a further reach and differentiated prices and services that the private mailing industry does not offer, she said.

In addition to household demand, Davidow said businesses rely on the postal service and it is “vital to our economy.”

From 2008 to 2010, sales revenue in the mailing industry, which includes private mailers and printing companies, grew by 10 percent to $1.1 trillion and increased jobs by 16 percent. Davidow said the mailing industry accounts for seven percent of U.S. GDP. She said 91 percent of mailing industry jobs are in private sector and 75 percent of those jobs are in firms dependent on the postal service infrastructure.

If nostalgia is the main reason to prevent a further shutdown of post offices across the country and privatization of the postal service, then that’s not good enough, said Tad DeHaven, budget analyst with the Cato Institute.

“The question is, ‘Does the federal government still need to be in charge of it?’ The answer, in my point of view, is no,” DeHaven said.

Postal services in the Netherlands and Germany have been privatized and offer other services like banking, DeHaven said. Though he cautions diversifying into other lines of businesses may create unfair competition against the private sector.

Henderson counter-argues that the postal service is not supported by the government but by its own revenues.

“It does have a monopoly, which is not worth much today because of declining mail volume,” Henderson said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Nov122010

US Postal Service on the Verge of Going Broke?

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- It's the biggest civilian employer after Walmart, but apparently the U.S. Postal Service is not "too big to fail." Friday, the Postal Service said that without Congressional action it could be bankrupt by the end of next year.

"We will continue our relentless efforts to innovate and improve efficiency. However, the need for changes to legislation, regulations and labor contracts has never been more obvious," Postal Service Chief Financial Officer Joe Corbett said in a statement.

The venerated 235-year-old institution is deep in the red. It lost $8.5 billion last year, shedding 105,000 jobs. In the next ten years, the agency could lose a whopping $238 billion.

While not obsolete, mail carriers are certainly carrying less and less mail.

In the 2010 fiscal year, mail carriers delivered 6 billion fewer pieces of mail than in 2009.

Snail mail is on the same fast track to death as the Yellow Pages and classified ads, all thanks to the Internet.

The post office does not receive tax money to operate, but taxpayers could be on the line if the agency defaults.

Some have suggested privatizing the service, but for now the post office still answers to Congress and Congress has been reluctant to approve measures like closing local branches of the post office, a move that would save the institution money and help pull it into the black.

The Postal Service has asked Congress to approve other cost-cutting measures such as ending Saturday service, raising the prices of stamps and cutting its obligation to future retirees.

Sen. Thomas Carper D-Del. vowed that the Postal Service will not go under and argued that the agency is crucial to American jobs.

"In mid-2011, the Postal Service will use up its line of credit [entering] crisis mode... What needs to be done is Congress needs to get out of the way and let them act more like a business and be more entrepreneurial," Carper said. "If we're interested in creating jobs and nurturing the environment for creating jobs, one of the worst things we can do is let the Postal Service go under."

Neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night could do it, but a deficit just might stop mail carriers in their tracks.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio 







ABC News Radio