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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.

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