Delaying the U.S. mail in an ill-advised attempt to save money could be the final nail in this essential service’s coffin.
On Oct. 1, the U.S. Postal Service began slowing deliveries of first-class mail across the country. The price of a stamp increased from 55 cents to 58 cents in August, and temporary holiday price increases for packages and other mail already are in effect.
Mail customers are being asked to pay more for less service. That’s a recipe for even greater failure ahead. Revenues will decline, leading to additional service cuts.
To many customers, a delay of a letter or post card is an annoyance. To people dependent on medicines that come by mail, or those whose mail service is the link to goods and services, delays in service can be devastating.
Both New Mexico senators, Martin Heinrich and Ben Ray Luján, have written to Postmaster General Louis DeJoy to demand answers. They, along with U.S. Sen. Tina Smith, D-Minn., and Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., want to know why DeJoy is slowing down mail delivery to the levels of the 1970s. Under the plan, first-class mail service can take up to five days — that’s compared to the current two- or three-day delivery.
That’s too long. Late payment of bills will result in additional charges, and people on fixed incomes can’t always afford them. And in rural America, there’s no alternative. The Postal Service must work for those customers.
Heinrich is the lead sponsor of the aptly named Delivering Envelopes Judiciously On-time Year-round Act (DeJoy Act). Introduced last May, the legislation seeks to block changes weakening delivery standards and to stop the Postal Service from adopting a 10-year plan decreasing its abilities to delivery mail efficiently. The plan is DeJoy’s baby — ineptly named “Delivering for America” — and in putting it together, the postmaster forgot to assess the impact it would have on mail customers.
Yet DeJoy — who actively worked to slow mail delivery, and thus votes, during last year’s presidential election — remains as postmaster general. He is appointed by a board of governors and still has their backing. Such protections are built into the system so presidents can’t meddle for political purposes.
For now, at least, Congress is asking hard questions. Lawmakers want to know whether the Postal Service considered how changes to first-class mail services would affect those who depend on those offerings, and whether plans are in place to monitor the impact of the slowed-down mail delivery. They demand these answers by Nov. 5.
Congress can do more than ask questions. The Postal Service lost $9.2 billion in the 2020 fiscal year, a sum that could be greatly reduced if Congress passed the Postal Service Reform Act. This legislation would eliminate the requirement the Postal Service prepay its retirees’ health benefits, saving an estimated $46 billion over 10 years.
Rather than eliminating services, the Postal Service could use its reach — 31,000 post offices around the country — to expand what it does in communities across the nation. We have written before about efforts to establish postal banks; post offices also could provide printing and copying services. They could offer Wi-Fi in areas where services are spotty. All of this would mean additional dollars to the institution established by the U.S. Constitution.
The U.S. Postal Service, in the end, cannot be simply about dollars and cents. It was designed since the early days of this nation to link a people separated by culture and distance. Along the way, it innovated, bringing rural free delivery, parcel post, postal savings systems and other initiatives across the nation.
Today, we need an innovative Postal Service, not one trying to balance its books by cutting services and raising prices.