With cuts, USPS risks customer base

Last winter, ahead of the November general election and the holidays, the Postal Service went into freefall. Customers were unable to count on prompt delivery of holiday cards and presents. Hancock County residents and Mainers across the state reported late mail, including receiving bills from service providers after their due date.

Since then, the service has stabilized, but a new 10-year strategic plan that recently went into effect is filled with cost-cutting strategies that will likely translate to reduced, not better, service.

In other words: “snail mail” is about to get slower.

The modern-day United States Postal Service is one of the country’s oldest services, tracing its roots back to our Founding Fathers. Benjamin Franklin was named the country’s first postmaster general in 1775, but the service really came into its own in 1792 with the passage of the Postal Service Act, which was signed into law by America’s first president, George Washington. In the 1970s, legislation establishing an independent agency was enacted. It states that the postal service “shall be operated as a basic and fundamental service provided to the people by the Government of the United States, authorized by the Constitution, created by Act of Congress, and supported by the people.”

The USPS has a mandate to deliver mail to all addresses in the United States and until recently, officially claimed to deliver first class mail within one to three days. Now, the official timetable will be between one and five days. There is a push to use ground transport, rather than air, in an attempt to save on overall costs.

The Postal Service has been riddled by financial problems for years, and the coronavirus pandemic has only worsened the situation. However, it is not clear that the recently announced changes will help overall long-term. Attorneys general in 19 states and the District of Columbia filed an administrative complaint earlier this month seeking to block U.S. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy’s plan.

The complaint demanded that the Postal Regulatory Commission thoroughly review the proposed changes before they go into effect. USPS leadership has insisted the steps are necessary to ensure the agency’s long-term financial health.

Fee increases are part of the package. On Aug. 29, the Postal Service raised the price of a first-class stamp from 55 to 58 cents. Additionally, starting Oct. 3 and continuing through Dec. 26, the Postal Service will temporarily increase prices anywhere from 25 cents to $5 on all priority mail, priority mail express and first-class package service because of the holiday season and its increase in mail volume.

We understand that the United States Postal Service is struggling, but it is time to think outside of the box and find new and innovative ways to stay competitive in a market that is increasingly embracing online ordering and delivery. Continuing to raise rates while slowing service is not a sustainable way to conduct business.

We aren’t holding out hope that the USPS will be quick to navigate the current challenges, so in the meantime, remember to send those holiday packages out with plenty of time to get to grandma.

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