As evidenced by a recent announcement made by the U.S. Postal Service to make unprecedented cuts to first-class mail, the ripple effect of a down economy continues to take its toll on services Americans have come to take for granted.
The decision, announced last week by U.S. Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe, will have an effect on the Oakdale, Escalon and Riverbank first-class mail service as each of those postal offices process their mail at the Stockton processing center, which is one of the 252 processing centers on the bubble for closure. Currently, there are nearly 500 processing centers located throughout the United States.
Another proposed cut is the discontinuation of Saturday mail delivery, Donahoe said.
The proposed cuts represent an estimated $3 billion in reductions, which are part of a large-scale effort by the struggling Postal Service to stem the current flow of hemorrhaging expenses for the historic service that began with The Pony Express.
Augustine Ruiz, Public Affairs Officer for the U.S. Postal Service, admitted the proposed cuts were deep but necessary.
“It’s going to affect not only local mail delivery but all mail delivery,” Ruiz admitted. “Service standards will certainly change.”
Ordinarily, mail is sent to Stockton for processing and then returned to the 95361 (Oakdale), 95367 (Riverbank) and 95320 (Escalon) Zip codes and those in the surrounding areas, however with the proposed cuts, mail would then be sent to the West Sacramento processing center instead. Almost half of first class mail is currently delivered the following day; however with the spring changes, about 51 percent of the first-class mail will be expected to arrive in two days. The change in delivery standards represents the first change to have occurred in 40 years of the Postal Service.
Most people are accustomed to next day delivery for local mail, but that would become a thing of the past due to travel time necessary to ferry the mail from West Sacramento and back again. Periodicals could take between two and nine days.
While inconvenient for some, the cuts are simply a reaction to the times, said Ruiz.
“At the height of the postal service in 2006 we processed 213 billion pieces of mail. We’re down to 170 billion pieces. That’s a reduction of 43 billion pieces. We have a lot of idle equipment not being used and employees with nothing to do,” Ruiz said. “We need to consolidate.”
The hard facts are that with the change of people’s shopping habits, their postal habits changed as well.
Internet commerce and bill pay have eliminated many consumers’ need for stamps or first-class mail service.
“It’s a bold move,” Ruiz agreed, saying, “We need to take bold action. We need to take the cost out of business to stay in business.”
The reduction in mail processing centers, in tandem with the planned closure of approximately 3,700 local post offices, and the subsequent laying off of 100,000 postal employees, could rack up a potential savings of $6.5 billion a year.
Each local post office slated for closure will be evaluated for their fiscal solvency as well as importance to the community it serves. Talks have already begun to replace certain local offices with “village” post offices, which are office spaces the U.S. Postal Service leases within local supermarkets.
The U.S. Postal Service, which is an independent government agency, does not receive tax money but Congress does have a say on large aspects of its operations. However, the U.S. Postal Service does not need permission from Congress to go ahead with the proposed changes to first-class mail.
“We didn’t ask for a bail out — we just want to get the mail out,” Ruiz stated.
The exact date of the proposed changes has not been announced; however, Ruiz said the changes ought to be in place by March 2012.*
In addition, the price of first-class stamps will increase by 1-cent starting Jan. 22, 2012.
*Late word came in Tuesday, Dec. 13 that the U.S Postal Service was going to delay possible closures of the mail processing centers and local post offices until mid-May in the hopes that Congress will pass legislation to help the cash-strapped agency avoid bankruptcy.