The U.S. Postal Service announced Wednesday that to trim costs, it will soon stop delivering mail—but not packages—on Saturdays. The plan will save the struggling agency $2 billion each year, according to Postmaster General Patrick Donahue. The USPS lost about $16 billion during its last budget year. "Our financial condition is urgent," Donahue told reporters at a press conference.
Under the USPS’s plan, stamped letters, magazines and advertisements will no longer be delivered to homes and businesses on Saturdays beginning August 10. Packages would still be delivered on Saturdays. Package delivery, one of the agency’s few growing services, has increased by 14% since 2010, while first class mail has declined 20%. Additionally, post offices that are open on Saturdays will remain open, and post office boxes will receive Saturday mail.
According to the USPS, more than a third of U.S. businesses are closed Saturday, and Saturdays have the lightest volume of mail. U.S. Postal Service officials say their research has shown that nearly 7 in 10 Americans support the switch to five-day delivery as a way for the post office to reduce costs. “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," Donahue said in a statement.
Over the last several years, the USPS has had to address swift changes to the way Americans communicate. In 2001, 53.6 billion stamped letter were mailed. In 2012, there were just 23.2 billion. This trend mirrors e-mail’s fast rise in popularity—for many people, it’s both a cheaper and faster way to communicate.
Since 2006, the Postal Service has cut costs by about $15 billion, including reducing the size of its career workforce by about 28%, or 193,000 employees. The agency continues to seek legislation from Congress to gain more flexibility in controlling costs.
The USPS is an independent agency and receives no tax dollars for its day-to-day operations, but it is still subject to congressional control. In the past, postal officials said they needed permission from Congress to change the mail-delivery schedule, but they now believe they can make the change without new legislation.
Still, Congress could act to stop the delivery change. Plus, the Postal Service needs Congress’s help to solve its money problems. In a statement, the USPS said it “encourages the 113th Congress to make postal reform legislation an urgent priority.”