It may be time to say “bye-bye” to bills and birthday cards delivered on Saturdays.
Despite opposition from Congress, the financially struggling U.S. Postal Service says it will stop delivering mail on Saturdays but continue to disburse packages six days a week.
In an announcement scheduled for later today, the service is expected to announce the cutback on Saturday “snail” mail will begin in August and could save $2 billion annually.
The step highlights one of the agency’s strong points—package delivery has increased by 14 percent since 2010, officials say, while the delivery of letters and other mail has declined with the increasing use of email and other Internet services.
The new plan will not affect post office box holders, and post offices currently open on Saturdays would remain open on Saturdays.
During the past several years, the Postal Service has repeatedly pitched this plan to Congress for approval with no success. The Postal Service is an independent agency, and gets no tax dollars for its daily operations. But it is subject to congressional control.
It was not immediately clear how the service could eliminate Saturday mail without congressional approval, but the agency clearly believes it has a majority of the American public on its side regarding the change.
Material prepared for the Wednesday press conference by Patrick R. Donahoe, postmaster general and CEO, says Postal Service market research and other research indicates nearly 7 in 10 Americans support the switch to five-day delivery as a money-saving measure.
“The Postal Service is advancing an important new approach to delivery that reflects the strong growth of our package business and responds to the financial realities resulting from America's changing mailing habits," Donahoe said in a statement prepared for the announcement. "We developed this approach by working with our customers to understand their delivery needs and by identifying creative ways to generate significant cost savings."
But the president of the National Association of Letter Carriers, Fredric Rolando, said the end of Saturday mail delivery is "a disastrous idea that would have a profoundly negative effect on the Postal Service and on millions of customers," particularly businesses, rural communities, the elderly, the disabled and others who depend on Saturday delivery for commerce and communication.
He said the maneuver by Donahoe to make the change "flouts the will of Congress, as expressed annually over the past 30 years in legislation that mandates six-day delivery.”
Lawmakers did not comment immediately on Donahoe’s plan.
But others agreed the Postal Service had little choice but to try.
"If the Congress of the United States refuses to take action to save the U.S. Postal Service, then the Postal Service will have to take action on its own," said corporate communications expert James S. O'Rourke, professor of management at the University of Notre Dame.
He said other action will be needed as well, such as shuttering smaller rural post offices and restructuring employee healthcare and pension costs.
"It's unclear whether the USPS has the legislative authority to take such actions on its own, but the alternative is the status quo until it is completely cash starved," O'Rourke said in a statement.
The Postal Service is making the announcement Wednesday, more than six months before the switch, to give residential and business customers time to plan and adjust, the statement said.
"The American public understands the financial challenges of the Postal Service and supports these steps as a responsible and reasonable approach to improving our financial situation," Donahoe said. "The Postal Service has a responsibility to take the steps necessary to return to long-term financial stability and ensure the continued affordability of the U.S. Mail."