This week, the United States Postmaster General released a dramatic 10-year plan for the Postal Service, which will see the agency make its largest cuts to consumer service in recent history.
The plan comes amid difficult times for the Postal Service, which was dealt multiple whammies by the coronavirus pandemic as it tried to balance crippled staff numbers with overwhelming package volumes. It also became embattled in politics during the 2020 presidential election, scuffling with Trump Administration officials over leadership and funding issues as the pandemic exacerbated the agency’s already declining financial health. In May, Republican and Trump megadonor Louis DeJoy was appointed the new Postmaster General in a move viewed skeptically by Democratic lawmakers.
You might have noticed that the mail has slowed since then. After DeJoy rolled out hefty retrenchment efforts last summer—including limiting employee overtime and removing mail-sorting machines from post offices—the Postal Service has continually failed to hit its previous level of 90% on-time deliveries, to the point where some pundits accused him of trying to thwart mail-in election ballots, which skew heavily Democratic. When it came time for holiday gift-giving, the beleaguered institution was forced to halt deliveries from several less-essential companies in order to handle surging demand.
The 58-page “Delivering for America” plan, unveiled by DeJoy, is the Postal Service’s response to its recent struggles—and it promises to be no less controversial. Major changes for customers include longer delivery times, as the standard for first-class letters and flats could be extended from three days to five days, fewer hours of operation at low-traffic post offices, and higher postage prices. According to the report, extended delivery times would impact roughly 30% of all first-class mail.
Such changes could allegedly help transform a $160 billion projected loss into a $0.2 billion projected gain over the next decade. However, the strategy has been criticized by Democrats, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who claim the changes would undermine the mission of the agency, harm service for those who receive medication or important documents through the mail, and guarantee a “death spiral” for the Postal Service.
Meanwhile, proponents claim the strategy will keep costs down, while pivoting agency away from its dying first-class-delivery business and toward a thriving package-delivery operation that’s expected to continue even after the pandemic’s end.
Political quarrels aside, changes are probably necessary for the storied mail carrier. The USPS recorded a net loss of $9.2 billion in 2020, which marked its 14th-straight year in the red.