Cumberland Times-News

April 10, 2013

Six-day mail

Good news on the postal front, but still no solutions

Cumberland Times-News

— The U.S. Postal Service announced Wednesday that it is delaying plans to end Saturday delivery of mail. While you can count us among those who don’t want to see Saturday mail service end, it still begs the question of how the postal agency will ever stop its financial bleeding.

By eliminating Saturday mail, the service said it could save $2 billion annually. But Congress stepped in and passed a spending bill that continues the long-time prohibition against reducing delivery days. The Postal Service’s Board of Governors says it believes that Congress "has left it with no choice but to delay implementation" of the five-day-a-week plan.

On the one hand, Congress is forbidding the service to cut out Saturday mail. On the other, lawmakers have done little to prompt fundamental change that will reverse the financial red ink. The postal service said it had a $15.9 billion net loss for fiscal 2012, which ended Sept. 30. That amount is three times the loss recorded for the previous year.

Much of the opposition to the elimination of Saturday mail delivery comes from rural areas. This week, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) became a co-sponsor of the Postal Service Protection Act which he said will address the U.S. Postal Service’s financial problems, prevent rural post office closures, protect Saturday delivery services and save American jobs. We hope he is right.

The act proposes to:

• Protect six-day delivery.

• Ensure the timely delivery of mail and protect mail-processing facilities. The bill would re-establish overnight delivery standards for first-class mail, which would ensure the timely delivery of mail, keep mail processing facilities open and protect jobs.

• Protect rural post offices. This bill would give the Postal Regulatory Commission binding authority to prevent post offices from being closed based on the effect on the community and its employees. Right now, the PRC only has the authority to review a decision to close a post office, but it does not have any binding authority to prevent the closure.

There is a lot of work to be done to return the Postal Service to firm footing. Now that Congress has forbid elimination of Saturday mail, much of the onus is on it to figure out other ways to cut the agency’s annual deficit.