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Entries in USPS (35)

Saturday
Aug032013

Postal Service Considers Cutting Into Alcohol Shipping Business

Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- As the U.S. Postal Service faces $15 billion in losses this year as fewer people send mail, one of the ways it hopes to raise money is by shipping alcohol.

Private carriers have been shipping alcohol for decades, but the postal service is prevented by law from engaging in the same business.

On Thursday, Postmaster General Patrick Donahue said he hopes the agency can deliver alcoholic beverages and thereby raise $50 million a year.

Private shipping company UPS offers wine shipping services for customers who are licensed to ship wine. Smaller shipping firms, like Premier Wine Shipping, which services much of California wine country, would face stiff competition from the postal service’s typically lower rates.

The company ships over 600 cases of wine each week from its three locations in St. Helena, Sonoma and Healdsburg, Calif.

Tony Aguilera, general manager for Premier Wine Shipping, said, “A small business like us — with the post office being four or five buildings down — it is going to take a lot of our customers, depending on their prices and their reliability.”

Aguilera has initial concerns about the U.S. Postal Service’s ability to ship wine safely.

“There have been plenty of times when they’ve lost packages of mine and there’s really no way track something in the same way as UPS and FedEx,” he said.

Premier Wine Shipping picks up wine from more than 80 different locations in Napa and Sonoma counties, then outsources shipping to FedEx. Premier Wine Shipping also offers pick-up and delivery to customers’ homes.

Last year the Senate passed a postal reform bill that included a provision allowing the delivery of alcohol. The bill requires compliance with any laws in the state of origin and the destination.

A spokeswoman for the postal service said most people know the agency doesn’t accept alcohol for mailing. The post office’s standard operating procedure even states packages “bearing” alcoholic beverage markings and/or labels must be returned to the mailer and not be forwarded to the addressee.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Apr102013

USPS Backs Off Plan to End Saturday Mail

Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post(WASHINGTON) -- The United States Postal Service has reversed its decision to end standard mail delivery on Saturdays later this summer, citing lack of cooperation from Congress.

The money-losing USPS is blaming Congress for the reversal because it failed to remove from a recent spending bill restrictive legislative language that mandates six-day delivery.

“Although disappointed with this congressional action, the Board will follow the law and has directed the Postal Service to delay implementation of its new delivery schedule until legislation is passed that provides the Postal Service with the authority to implement a financially appropriate and responsible delivery schedule,” the USPS blog stated.

Nevertheless, the USPS Board said Wednesday that it continues to support the transition to a new national delivery schedule.

While House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa assured the Postal Service that it would retain its authority to modify its delivery schedule despite the budget language that derailed the effort. In a statement, Issa, one of Congress’ leading forces for postal reform, called the Postal Service’s decision a “setback” and blamed “special interest lobbying and intense political pressure” for the change.

“I am disappointed that the Postal Service has backed away from plans to implement a modified Saturday delivery schedule that polling indicates the American people understand and support,” Issa, R-Calif., said. “This reversal significantly undercuts the credibility of postal officials who have told Congress that they were prepared to defy political pressure and make difficult but necessary cuts.”

The continuing resolution funds the federal government through the end of the fiscal year, Sept. 30. The USPS says it will wait for Congress to either strip the provision from the next spending bill or enact comprehensive postal reform before moving ahead with its modified delivery plans, which would have taken effect August 5.

The Postal Service announced the plans to scale back Saturday delivery in February amid a wave of public outcry. The USPS is financially independent of the U.S. government and runs an annual deficit. It suffered a $15.9 billion loss last year.

Since 2006, the Postal Service has reduced staffing by 28 percent and consolidated 200 U.S. mail centers.

Last May, USPS announced it would cut back hours of operation in certain rural areas to avoid closing some post offices entirely. Hours at 13,000 post offices across the United States were slashed from full-time to part-time, ranging from two to six hours per day.

The switch saved the Postal Service around $500 million per year, but resulted in 9,000 employees losing work benefits.

The bleak financial outlook of the Postal Service has been a recurring theme and many ideas have been vetted in recent years to stop the financial bleeding.

In February, the Postal Service announced plans to debut a “Rain Heat & Snow” line of apparel in an attempt to gain much-needed revenue.

In November 2011, a gaggle of Senators proposed an overhaul of the Postal Service aimed at saving the agency. Among other proposals, the legislation suggested paring down to a 5 day delivery schedule over the course of two years.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Feb132013

Some Senators Going Postal over Saturday Mail

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- In the aftermath of the Postal Service’s announcement that it will end Saturday mail delivery come August, the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs met Wednesday to chew over possible solutions to the financial difficulties facing the U.S. Postal Service.  The USPS is financially independent of the U.S. government, and runs at an annual deficit. It suffered a $15.9 billion loss last year.

Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., got a bit testy over the end of Saturday mail, which he said will hurt his rural state more than some others.

“I’m one of those guys who says don’t end Saturday delivery, don’t shut down that mail processing center in rural Montana, and I will tell you why,” said Tester. “Because it has an impact on rural Montana that you may not feel in Pittsburgh, or Miami, or LA, or any of the big cities, but we don’t get mail for 5 or 6 days. So if we are going to have a mail service that works for urban America, it damn well better work for rural America too!”

“If we are going to cut the nose off our face to save the postal service, why don’t we just turn the contract over to UPS or FedEx?” he later said.

In an edgy exchange with Postmaster General Patrick R. Donahoe, Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., questioned the legality of the USPS decision to end Saturday mail.

“You’re satisfied that you have the legal authority. I’m not. And I’m not sure that this committee is. I’m not sure the Congress is,” said Pryor.

Donahoe defended the decision.

“I would implore this Congress not to put any other restrictions on us from a six to five day perspective. We have lost substantial volume, we have lost 27 percent of our total volume, over 30 percent of our first class volume…. This is a responsible act,” said Donahoe.

Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., said moving to five-day delivery is an “absolute must.”

“We need to give the post office the flexibility to do what they can do to prepare to offer that service in a way that puts them back in fiscal health,” said Coburn.

Donahoe warned of the consequences of simply raising prices without some agency reform.

“Let us resolve the cost issues before we go around pushing prices up because there is a real demand quotient here and we do not want to sink the system just by trying to generate some mail from a price increase,” said Donahoe.

Coburn and the president of the National Rural Letter Carrier’s Association, Jeanette P. Dwyer, also sparred over the elimination of Saturday delivery.

Dwyer claimed that some postal workers were given “less than 24 hours notice” of the Postal Service’s decision to pare down mail deliveries to five days a week.

“There are companies that will pounce on that,” Dwyer said, speaking about the possibility of losing business from the delivery change, “They will be more than glad to give that one day of delivery.”

Coburn retorted by asking, “If service is that important, why aren’t we delivering on Sunday?”

Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., called on Congress to “free the hands” of the postal service.  He said he supports a small premium for Saturday delivery so that “vital medicines and other packages” could still be delivered.

“In order to get a comprehensive reform, we must first realize that freeing the hands of the Postmaster General, in a way that was envisioned by their independence, is a good first step,” said Issa.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Feb062013

USPS to Cut Mail Delivery on Saturdays

Joe Raedle/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- The U.S. Postal Service will stop delivering mail on Saturdays, but will continue to deliver packages six days a week.

While post offices that open on Saturdays will continue to do so, the initiative, which is expected to begin the first week of August, will save an estimated $2 billion a year.

The service reduction is the latest of Postal Service steps to cut costs as the independent agency of the U.S. government struggles with its finances.

The USPS announced in May it was cutting back on the number of operating hours instead of shuttering 3,700 rural post offices.  The move, which reduced hours of operation at 13,000 rural post offices from an eight-hour day to between two and six hours a day, was made with the aim of saving about $500 million per year.

The cutback in hours last year resulted in 9,000 full-time postal employees being reduced to part time plus the loss of their benefits, while another 4,000 full-time employees became part time but kept their benefits.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Aug222012

Over Production of Commemorative Stamps Costs USPS $2M a Year

PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- The United States Postal Service is on track to lose $15 million this year and one reason is bad planning.

The USPS bet big that a stamp commemorating the TV show The Simpsons would be a mega seller.  The agency ordered one billion Simpsons stamps, but only managed to sell 318 million of them during 2009 and 2010.  That left a surplus of 682 million stamps at a cost of $1.2 million.

Similarly, the Postal Service ordered 500 million "Flags of our Nation" stamps, but only sold 120 million of them during 2010 and 2011.  That led to a waste of 380 million stamps and $716,000.

If the USPS were to cut back on the over production of such commemorative and special issue stamps, it could save roughly $2 million a year.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Aug012012

US Postal Service to Default on $5.5 Billion Payment

Joe Raedle/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- In the 18 months the 112th Congress has been sworn in, the House has introduced 60 bills to rename post offices. Thirty-eight have passed the House and 26 have become law.

But not a single bill has come to the House floor aimed at reforming a Postal Service, which is bleeding billions of dollars because of Congressional mandates.

On Wednesday, the United States Postal Service will default on a Congressional mandate to pay $5.5 billion to “prefund” health benefits for future retirees.  On Friday, House of Representatives will leave town for a five-week summer vacation.  There is no plan to take up postal reform before that summer recess.

The Postal Service has attempted to enact an array of cost-cutting measures to pull itself out of a $22.5 billion budget shortfall.  Over the past five years, USPS has cut more than 110,000 employees.  The mail service, which takes no taxpayer money but is regulated by Congress, has announced plans to close or consolidate 230 mail processing centers, cutting 13,000 jobs and saving an estimated $1.2 billion annually.

The service attempted to close 3,700 post offices under a plan announced last year, but after public outcry decided to cut operating hours to between two and six hours per day at 13,000 locations.  USPS claims that move will save $500 million per year.

One of the largest cost-saving measures would be ending Saturday mail delivery, a move the Postal Service says will save $3.1 billion a year.  But USPS can’t cut delivery without Congressional approval, and partisan disagreements over whether Congress should take control of USPS’ operations until it is solvent again or if it should leave the decision making to the postmaster general have halted any action on Capitol Hill.

USPS claims that if Congress does not act, the mail service will default not only on the $5.5 billion payment due Wednesday, but also on another $5.6 billion payment for future retiree’s benefit due Sept. 30.

The Postal Service has pleaded with Congress for years to end the requirement that it pre-fund its retiree’s health benefits.  But many lawmakers claim that because USPS has such a massive workforce -- there are 614,000 Postal Service employees -- it will not be able to pay them in the future if it does not pre-fund retirement benefits.

And as long as these disagreements persist, it looks like naming post offices is the closest Congress will get to passing postal reform.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Jul192012

US Postal Service Expected to Default on Billions in Health Payments

Joe Raedle/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The ailing U.S. Postal Service is expected to default on two annual payments totaling more than $11 billion in health benefits for future retirees.

The USPS said this week that unless congress steps in, the Postal Service will be unable to make payment on the $5.5 billion it owes the government by Aug. 1, or the $5.6 billion that is due by the end of September, the New York Times reports.

“We are simply not capable of making either of these payments to the U.S. Treasury, in part or in full, while continuing to meet our other legal obligations, including our obligation to provide universal service to the American people,” USPS spokesman Dave Partenheimer said Wednesday, according to the Times.

The Wall Street Journal reports that legislative action is unlikely, as members of Congress prepare to depart Washington for August recess.

The Postal Service is deeply in the red, losing billions of dollars a year because of a sharp drop in mail volume. Critics say federal law prevents post offices from innovating to compete effectively with FedEx, UPS and other firms.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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

Tuesday
Apr242012

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







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