Before this becomes a rant against the USPS and its recent decisions, it’s important to acknowledge that something must change with the agency. A report by the federal General Accountability office showed that the USPS lost $69 billion over an 11-year span, including losses of $3.9 billion in 2018, $8.9 billion in 2019 and $9.2 billion in 2020.
Obviously, no company can continue to operate at a loss, and must make changes to accommodate for revenue declines if it is to exist in the future.
So, yes, the USPS is right to take drastic measures as it tries to work itself back toward solvency, however unlikely it is to achieve that basic business objective.
But its most recent changes are causing a wave of outrage. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy has ordered a slowdown of mail delivery and an increase in postage rates. Notably, the changes will have an effect on first-class mail, including things like bills and birthday cards. In recent decades, Americans could realistically expect their first-class mail to arrive within one to three days. It now might take up to five days.
The reason: More trucks will be used and fewer planes will be flown, and trucks are less expensive to operate.
Also, rates are going up — a few cents earlier this month on stamps and as much as $1 on some packages.
The good news is that the USPS said more than half of first-class mail will still be delivered on time. Still, some are predicting trouble.
U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence, D-Mich., is among them. She is a 30-year veteran of the USPS and has “grave doubts” that the changes will allow the agency to provide reliable service. Worse, she believes the changes will hit hardest among the people who most need good mail service.
“Seniors, small business owners and families across the country rely on the Postal Service for the prompt delivery of life-saving medication, important documents and packages.”
For rural residents, the trouble could be compounded.
It’s difficult to fault the USPS for making notable changes as it is tasked with fixing its colossal financial woes. The USPS is saying that approximately 60% of first-class mail and more than 90% of periodicals will be unaffected by the change, and also that standards for first-class mail within a local area will continue to be two days. And we would rather see potential slower delivery and, yes, even rate changes as long as Saturday delivery is uninterrupted.
However, rather than sudden and permanent changes, it would have been better to vet the strategy for a short period before diving in head first without knowing the full effect these decisions will have on customers — particularly the elderly and those who live in rural America.
This other view is the opinion of the editorial board of our sister publication, the Grand Forks Herald.