By Ted AYALA
The United States Postal Service (USPS) stunned many across the nation Feb. 6 when it announced it was ending delivery of first-class mail effective August of this year.
The beleaguered agency has suffered in recent years from a society that has rendered the USPS on unsure footing in a culture increasingly reliant on instantaneous communication via the Internet and smartphones.
It’s also no help for the USPS that it is required by Congress to cover its own expenses without taxpayer help, albeit with the approval of Congress.
But a more crushing blow was dealt to the agency in the form of the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act of 2006. That act forced the agency to pay $5.5 billion a year into a health-benefit fund for retirees – something no other government agency is required to do. The USPS has survived on loans of $3 billion annually to sustain it. But last year it reached its credit limit, forcing it to take immediate action to cut costs.
Ultimately, though, in an age where text messaging, Tweets, emails, and Facebook messages have become the norm, the USPS has struggled to remain relevant.
“The [USPS] expects to generate cost savings of approximately $2 billion annually, once the plan is fully implemented,” the agency said in a press release.
It said that it made the announcement more than six months in advance of implementing the schedule changes to give residential and business customers time to plan and adjust. The USPS plans to publish specific guidance in the near future for residential and business customers about its new delivery schedule.
“Given the ongoing financial challenges, the Postal Service Board of Governors last month directed postal management to accelerate the restructuring of Postal Service operations in order to strengthen Postal Service finances,” the USPS added.
Customers at the post office on Broadway Avenue in Glendale expressed some sadness over the announcement, though some felt it was awhile in coming.
“It feels like we reached the end of an era,” said Cindy Lopez who was returning from buying stamps. “I guess it’s a sign of the time with the way the economy is.”
“Their business model is outdated,” said Bryant Nichols who was waiting outside the building while his wife went to send off some packages. “They’re a horse-and-buggy in the age of the jet.”
The USPS has also recommended other strategies for combating its tide of red ink, including shutting down numerous post offices across the country. That proposal met with some congressional opposition, with some politicians saying the plan would disproportionately affect those in rural or suburban areas.
In late January, Rep. Adam Schiff (D, Burbank) called on Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe to keep his agency from closing Glendale’s historic post office on Broadway Ave.
“Closing the Post Office would mean a significant degradation in services for the community,” he said. “Small business owners and families who rely on the Post Office on a daily basis to help their firms grow and mail care packages, respectively, will likely have to travel far outside the downtown business district to conduct their business with USPS. Additionally, seniors who depend on being able to access the Post Office on foot will no longer have a Post Office within walking distance. The damage done by selling the Post Office would be permanent.”
While first-class mail will no longer be delivered on Saturdays, the USPS will continue to maintain service for deliveries of packages on that day.