USPS revamps semipostals; Alzheimer’s stamp returning
By Michael Baadke
The 2017 United States Alzheimer’s Awareness semipostal stamp, which was removed from sale Nov. 30, 2019, will be sold at post offices once again beginning Oct. 5.
With that Sept. 4 announcement, the U.S. Postal Service also revealed it will no longer impose a two-year sales window for stamps issued in its discretionary semipostal program.
Semipostals are postage stamps offered with an added cost (surtax) that is considered a voluntary donation to a specified cause.
The USPS, which introduced its first semipostals in 1998, has so far issued them all at the prevailing first-class domestic letter rate, which is currently 55¢, and sold them with a small added surtax, currently 10¢ per stamp.
The Alzheimer’s semipostal (Scott B6) was issued Nov. 30, 2017, and taken off sale when its designated two-year sales period ended Nov. 30, 2019.
Early U.S. semipostals had been issued as the result of legislation passed in Congress. The Alzheimer’s stamp was the first in the USPS discretionary semipostal program, which developed new semipostal stamps within the Postal Service.
The Postal Service planned to issue five semipostal fundraising stamps one at a time over a 10-year period under its discretionary program, with each stamp to be sold for no more than two years. The second stamp offered in this program is the nondenominated (55¢+10¢) Healing PTSD semipostal (Scott B7) issued Dec. 2, 2019, and currently still on sale.
When the Alzheimer’s stamp was withdrawn from sale, 8.2 million had been sold, raising more than $1.06 million for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in its efforts to treat the degenerative brain disease.
But according to technical details released when the stamp was issued, 500 million Alzheimer’s semipostal stamps had been printed, suggesting that hundreds of millions of the printed stamps remain unsold.
As the stamps were being pulled from sale nationwide, the Postal Service received a letter from members of Congress advising it that legislation was being developed to override the two-year limit for this stamp and to push the Postal Service to continue selling it.
The Postal Service then instructed its post offices to hold on to existing stocks of the stamp, though they were not to be sold.
The legislative efforts seem to have gone nowhere, but the Postal Service is now resolving the situation by changing the rules it set up when the program began.
A final rule published Sept. 4 in the Federal Register releases the Postal Service from the restrictions of issuing semipostals one at a time and selling them for only two years.
Those restrictions “proved impracticable,” the Postal Service acknowledged in its filing.
“Further, the Postal Service encountered continued interest in the sale of a previously offered discretionary semipostal stamp for which the Postal Service possesses unsold inventory,” it noted.
The filing reminds the public that the Postal Service continues to accept suggestions for proposed semipostal stamps through its office of Stamp Services.
The mailing address for submitting suggestions and the specific guidelines that must be followed for the suggestions to be considered by the Postal Service can be found at https://about.usps.com/news/national-releases/2017/pr17_057.pdf.
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