Postmaster General Louis DeJoy released a proposal to reform the United States Postal Service on Tuesday, describing his 10-year plan as necessary to contain billions of dollars in losses and put the agency on the path to profitability. But critics express concern about key elements of the plan, including slower delivery standards and planned closures of some post offices.
DeJoy said the plan will “erase” a projected loss of $ 160 billion over the next decade by boosting revenue through increased package delivery and possible increases in postage. Other savings would require action by Congress to change the requirements for pre-financing retiree pension obligations and integrate the postal service’s retiree health care coverage with Medicare.
In particular, the plan would slow down the USPS mail delivery standard to six days. Currently, the standard is three-day delivery to any destination within the Continental US.
The plan comes as the USPS is already struggling with deliveries, as well as consumer complaints about mail arriving days or weeks later than expected. At the same time, more Americans than ever trust the postal service given the constant, which has driven demand for e-commerce and mail-order delivery of prescription drugs and other essentials.
While critics and supporters alike point out that the post office is in need of an overhaul, some raised concerns about the impact of slower delivery standards.
“Sending an email shouldn’t be a game of chance, and that’s what’s happening with the USPS, unfortunately, right now,” Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, a Democrat from Illinois, told CBS News’ Kris Van Cleave. “And unfortunately, people are starting to change some of their mail-handling habits. So they’re emailing documents and basically reducing their dependency on mail, which is a disaster in the long run.”
Krishnamoorthi said she already receives emails and text messages from her constituents about their concerns about drug delays, Social Security checks and small business bill payments. “That is a catastrophe for them,” he added.
But DeJoy described the plan as necessary for the postal agency’s long-term survival.
“If left unaddressed, not only will our service continue to deteriorate, we forecast that we will lose $ 160 billion over the next 10 years,” he said during a video call to discuss the plan. “Before that, we will run out of cash and we will not be able to continue without a ransom. We are not for that.”
If the plan is enacted, the USPS could break in 2023 and report a “modest profit” in subsequent years, USPS Chief Financial Officer Joseph Corbett said.
Postal workers have “deep concerns”
The USPS wants to change its delivery standard with the goal of delivering any mail pieces within six days. But postal service officials said on the call that seven out of 10 pieces of mail would still be delivered within the current three-day service standard.
Instead, mail delivered to “our network margins” would require up to six days to be delivered, said Kristin Seaver, director of retail sales and delivery for the postal service. Mail traveling from coast to coast could take five days to be delivered, and the USPS adds an additional day of delivery as a cushion for such deliveries, he added.
The Postal Workers Union of America expressed “deep concern” about slower delivery standards, as well as other changes.
“At a time when the public is demanding faster delivery of mail and packages, proposals that would slow down mail and reduce retail services, such as changing service standards, consolidating plants, and reducing operating hours at retail offices. post office will only have a negative effect on postal workers and the public, “the union said in a statement.
Defending the change, the USPS noted that its delivery standards have decreased in recent years. “In particular, we have not met first-class mail service targets in eight years,” states the Delivering for America Plan. “This is due both to unattainable service standards and a lack of operational precision.”
Post office closures
The plan also calls for the consolidation of some post offices that receive “low traffic” into full-service retail post offices, although it did not specify which offices could face closure. It also plans to “further align Post Office hours of operation with local usage” and potentially increase postal rates, although DeJoy said there are no specific plans for the latter.
Last fall, the USPS said it would keep the price of a stamp “forever” – and the rate for first class letters – at 55 cents by 20201, while other rates for first class mail would increase 1.8% and alternative mail categories to cost 1.5% more.
Reducing services and delivery standards is not the right way to improve postal service, Krishnamoorthi said.
“When they talk about a course change, it doesn’t mean that, you know, what’s going up should come down,” he said. “We have to talk about how to take the best of the USPS, amplify it and then what is not going well, change that part. And, unfortunately, Mr. DeJoy is doing the opposite right now.”
—With reporting from Kris Van Cleave of CBS News.