USPS issues 6-month moratorium on post office closures
December 26, 2011
“We don’t want to be a drain on taxpayers and we don’t want a bailout. We want to do this right.”
— David Rupert, a Colorado spokesman for the U.S. Postal Service, on a six-month moratorium of post office closures he hopes will result in Congressional legislation to help the postal service run more efficiently.
The U.S. Postal Service, while in the midst of a dire financial situation, has put a temporarily halt on closure studies.
On Dec. 13, at the behest of many U.S. senators, USPS issued a six-month moratorium to delay plans to close or consolidate certain post offices until May 15, 2012, according to a USPS news release.
"The postal service will continue all necessary steps required for the review of these facilities during the interim period, including public meetings," the release stated. "The postal service hopes this period will help facilitate the enactment of comprehensive postal legislation."
David Rupert, a Colorado spokesman for USPS, said the government entity is asking Congressional legislators to draft a bill that would provide the postal service with the flexibility it needs to respond to fluctuations in future customer demands and to run USPS more like a business.
"I think Congress understands now that the ball rests in their court," Rupert said. "We haven't had any action yet, but we're confident Congress will pick this up and we're happy they're now taking an interest in this."
Rupert said USPS is currently losing $100 million per week because it cannot produce enough revenue to keep up with operating costs. Previous reports have estimated the postal service's debt will reach $8 billion by the end of the year.
To cut operating costs and get a handle on managing its debt, USPS has considered closing about 3,600 branches located primarily in rural regions throughout the country.
The issue hit home in October when residents discovered post offices in Hamilton, Maybell and Slater, and Savery and Dixon Wyo., were included in the postal service's closure study.
USPS has since removed Maybell from that list.
USPS officials have a variety of ideas for Congress they believe could save the rest of the branches still being considered for closure, Rupert said.
"We need long-term solutions to our finances," Rupert said. "We have two items on the table right now that we believe will address the majority of our issues, including switching from a six- to a five-day delivery schedule."
The proposal includes dropping Saturday delivery, which USPS believes will save the organization about $3 billion a year in operating costs alone.
USPS also is asking Congress for permission to manage its employee health care and retirement benefits, Rupert said.
A 2006 federal law requires USPS to pre-fund employee health and retirement benefits at a cost of $5.5 billion annually.
"We're not trying to get out of providing health benefits, we would just like a more reasonable schedule," Rupert said. "If we were freed up from those two very simple things, we wouldn't quite have the urgency to implement so many radical changes like closing facilities and consolidating our operations."
Rupert said he is encouraged by the moratorium, but concedes nothing is fixed yet.
"This moratorium gives some of those smaller post offices a temporary reprieve, but it doesn't do anything to save the postal service, which is what we are really interested in doing," Rupert said. "We don't want to be a drain on taxpayers and we don't want a bailout. We want to do this right."
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