For those people who enjoy waiting by the mail box for a new post card or letter from a friend, you may have a day off.
Postmaster General John E. Potter is proposing that the requirement for mail to be delivered six days a week be changed to five. Potter said the U.S. Postal Service is $2.8 billion in the red and is projecting a net loss of $6 billion in 2009.
A George Mason University study states that the cut would save $1.9 billion a year, while USPS says it would be $3.5 billion.
“Like most businesses, we have to cuts costs when we’re not doing well,” said Augustine Ruiz, a Sacramento district postal spokesperson. “We are self sufficient, but we still have tremendous government oversight, so that limits our own ability to make certain changes.”
USPS is considering cutting a low volume day such as Tuesday.
In the past, invoices and checks were primarily sent through the mail, but with the Internet and sites like MyBill.ucdavis.edu there could be less of a problem with the change. 75 percent of students use the site to pay school bills.
“We have a great and flexible payment program online,” said UC Davis student accounting manager Alyse DeFazio. “The change wouldn’t cause that many issues in terms of students paying bills.”
“In terms of the 25 percent of students who do not pay bills online, it would be hard to determine how it would affect those students because there is no record of which students walk in to turn in bills and which mail them in,” she said.
Others cite reasons why the change would not make a huge difference now.
“The Postal Service has long wanted to cut a day of delivery,” said UC Davis economics professor Thomas Mayer. “Now that, by and large, the Internet moves important messages, and the Postal Service largely sends junk mail, it may be a good time to do this.”
Companies that primarily ship to customers could be affected by the possible change, but are hesitant to comment on it.
“We use a variety of carriers to deliver our customer packages,” said Patty Smith of Amazon.com. “Beyond that, we don’t speculate about what may or may not happen in the future.”
Netflix spokesperson Steve Swasey said the change is just a suspicion and declined to comment further.
A health care bill passed in 2006 requires the Postal Service to pay $55 billion to pre-fund health care for employee retirees, a requirement that is constraining the service’s ability to do business.
“What we need is for the Senate subcommittee to allow us to reschedule payments for the 2006 postal health care bill that makes us pre-fund our health care for retirees,” Ruiz said. “An additional $5 billion a year that’s going towards that could easily be used to generate revenue and sustain our business.”
Ruiz says that the timing for changing the number of delivery days depends on Congress’s decision regarding the health care payments and other factors. He says that if it did happen it would be during a leaner mailing period like the spring, and would most likely be a temporary change.
The agency says that because of the country’s financial crisis, with heavy senders sending less mail than usual, the number of mail pieces went down by 9 billion in 2008. They are projecting it to be 12 to 15 billion in 2009.
Along with the proposition to change the number of delivery days, the first class rate would increase from 42 to 44 cents. The Postal Service has already cut its work force by 120,000 and has also frozen executive salaries. Construction of new facilities has been cancelled except in cases of emergency. The Postal Service has also cut costs by $1 billion since 2002. Currently, they are in the process of downsizing their headquarters work force by 15 percent.
“I know this is alarming news,” Ruiz said. “We are a $900 billion industry. We have a lot of economic responsibility, as people rely on U.S. mail. We are also a strong indicator for America in general. We have to sustain our infrastructure, and that could require drastic measures.”
USPS employs 9 million people around the world.
ANGELA SWARTZ can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org.