The announcement by the U.S. Postal Service that the post offices in Waite Park, Bemidji, Duluth and Mankato are slated for closure would severely impact mail service in Minnesota and be especially harmful to residents and businesses that rely on timely delivery of mail.
Also impacted would be the dedicated employees of the four facilities, their families and the local economy as well.
The U.S. Postal Service announced Feb. 22 it intends to close those facilities along with more than 200 other mail-processing plants across the country.
Locally, closing the mail processing plant means residents and businesses may not receive bills, payments, prescriptions, online purchases and community newspapers on time.
Nationally, dismantling the USPS distribution network would have a severe impact on companies that rely on the Postal Service to conduct business – to deliver bills and catalogs, return payments, distribute information about products and services, and deliver goods to customers. The Postal Service is at the heart of a $1 trillion private-sector industry that employs nine million people and generates more than $65 billion worth of mail annually.
Closing postal facilities would also have a devastating impact on millions of individual citizens who rely on the mail to connect them to their communities and the nation at large. Nearly 40 percent of Americans don’t have broadband Internet access, and 28 percent of Americans have no Internet access at all. About 55 percent of consumers still receive hard-copy bills and statements.
As the American Postal Workers Union has repeatedly pointed out during the past several months, the massive proposed postal closures are unnecessary. Congress created the problem and Congress can fix it – without any cost to taxpayers.
The cause of the Postal Service’s financial crisis is largely misunderstood. Although first-class mail has declined throughout the past four years, online bill payment and other forms of electronic communication are only part of the problem.
The primary cause of the Postal Service’s dire financial situation is a mandate imposed by Congress in 2006 that requires the USPS to “pre-fund” health-care benefits for future retirees. That obligation drains about $5.5 billion annually from postal accounts to fund a 75-year obligation – in just 10 years. No other government agency or private business bears that burden.
According to the Postal Service inspector general, those payments are no longer necessary because of the $45 billion which that account already has accumulated.
Were it not for the financial choke-hold Congress created in 2006, the Postal Service would have netted a $611 million surplus during fiscal years 2006-2010 instead of racking up a $21 billion deficit.
Recent media reports claiming the Postal Service lost $3.3 billion in the first quarter of 2012 are very misleading. The Postal Service actually realized a $200 million net profit delivering the mail. The 2006 congressional prefunding mandate accounted for $3.1 billion of the quarter’s loss with the remainder attributed to a non-cash actuarial adjustment to the Postal Service’s compensation costs.
Despite the Postal Service announcing its intention to close 223 mail-processing facilities, Congress can still stop these closures, but it must act now.
Implementation of the plan to close the mail processing centers can only be carried out if current service standards are revised. (The change in service standards would degrade service by eliminating overnight delivery for first-class mail and periodicals, change next-day delivery to two days, and extend two-day delivery to three days.) In addition, no implementation will take place prior to May 15 of this year, in keeping with the moratorium on closing or consolidating postal facilities, to give Congress and the Administration the opportunity to enact an alternative plan. If Congress does not take action before the moratorium expires, postal management intends to dismantle the mail-processing network.
The American Postal Workers Union has been working to win support for amendments to the 21st Century Postal Service Act (S. 1789), which is expected to come up for a vote in the Senate soon.
Twenty-seven senators signed a letter to the authors of S. 1789 on Feb. 14, asking them to adopt amendments — to maintain current service standards, prevent the closures of hundreds of mail-processing plants, protect rural post offices, maintain six-day delivery and establish a blue-ribbon panel to examine how the Postal Service can earn additional revenue by offering new services.
Concerned citizens and business owners can help by contacting their senators and representatives and urging them to support legislation that will maintain current service standards and correct the underlying cause of the USPS financial crisis without slashing service, eliminating jobs and destroying the network of plants and post offices that keeps the mail moving.
This is a Congressionally-manufactured crisis caused by the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act of 2006.
However, it’s not too late to stop the demise of the world’s largest, most efficient and most trusted mail system – one that our founding fathers expressly authorized in the Constitution.