Postal Updates

By Bill McAllister, Washington Correspondent

Budget law requires six-day deliveries; USPS appeals rate increase

January 24, 2014 08:15 AM

Congress has once again said no to the United States Postal Service’s plan to end Saturday mail deliveries.

A budget bill passed by both houses and signed by President Barack Obama Jan. 17 contains a requirement “that 6-day delivery and rural delivery of mail shall continue at not less than the 1983 level.”

The president signed the legislation even though he has supported the end of Saturday deliveries as a cost-cutting measure.

In passing the spending bill, the House voiced caution about the Postal Service’s plans to close and sell a number of historic post offices.

In a report, it said that the Postal Service might not be following the National Historic Preservation Act by requiring that the buildings be maintained in their historic appearance.

Postal Service spokesman David Partenheimer told Linn’s that the budget bill “does not prevent the Postal Service from closing small offices, it prevents the Postal Service from using the revenue forgone funds appropriated in the bill to do so.”

Until the Postal Service’s inspector general completes an investigation of such properties, the House said the Postal Service “should refrain from the relocation of services from historic post offices, and believes the Postal Service should suspend the sale of any historic post office.”

Partenheimer also said that the Postal Service complies with requirements for preserving historic post offices.

If a closing has an adverse impact on an historic building, “the Postal Service will seek ways to avoid, minimize, or mitigate the adverse effect on the historic property,” he said.

The budget provision has been a part of the federal budget for 30 years, and it is a requirement that Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe has repeatedly pleaded with Congress to eliminate.

That would permit the Postal Service to save more than $2 billion a year, the agency has said.

Postal unions have strongly opposed the measure.

“We are grateful that Congress recognizes the value of Saturday delivery to millions of American businesses that rely on the most efficient last-mile delivery system in the world,” National Association of Letter Carriers President Fredric Rolando said on the union’s website.

“As the economy recovers and e-commerce booms, the Postal Service has returned to operational profitability, which would be threatened by cutting the Saturday service on which millions of small businesses and residents rely,” he said.

The budget bill also contains a requirement that would prohibit the Postal Service from consolidating or closing “small rural and other small post offices in fiscal 2014.”

David Partenheimer told Linn’s, “Adjusting delivery frequency continues to be one of the fundamental elements of our Five-Year Business Plan to restore the Postal Service to long-term financial stability.

“It is widely supported by the American public, according to numerous polls. The plan for five-day mail delivery while delivering packages six and seven days a week reflects the strong growth of our package business and responds to the financial realities resulting from the sharp decline in first-class mail volume,” he said.

The Postal Service and a broad coalition of large mailers have filed notices of appeal to the emergency rate increases that became effective Jan. 26.

Both the mailers and the Postal Service said they will file their specific objections at a later date to the increase that boosted the cost of a letter to 49¢.

The mailers have said they object to the size of the increase, and the Postal Service said it objects to the projected two-year life of the increase that the Postal Regulatory Commission approved Dec. 24. The USPS wants the increase to be permanent.