By Matthew Hay Brown and Alison Knezevich, The Baltimore Sun
2:20 PM EST, February 7, 2013
At the Dundalk Post Office this week, news that the cash-strapped U.S. Postal Service would stop delivering mail on Saturdays beginning in August was greeted with a mix of apathy and understanding.
Twenty-four-year-old Jordan Gillis said he wasn't surprised by the announcement.
"It'll just be something that people will adjust to," said Gillis, who was running errands Wednesday for the Dundalk Music Center, where he teaches guitar.
Paul Tomczewski, 75, said the announcement seemed to be a sign of a wider issue with government finances.
"I'd rather leave it the way it is," said Tomczewski, who is retired from Bethlehem Steel. "But there's not much I can do about it. I'd say something's wrong that all these organizations with the government – they're all in debt."
Under the plan announced this week, mail will still be delivered to post office boxes on Saturdays, and carriers will continue home delivery of packages. But customers expecting letters and magazines at home will have to wait until Monday.
Postmaster General Patrick R. Donahoe said the move, the latest in a series of cost-cutting measures at an agency that lost $16 billion last year, will generate savings of $2 billion annually.
Americans back the change as a way of cutting costs, Donahoe said, citing polls by Gallup and several news organizations in 2010 that showed support at nearly 70 percent.
"The American public understands the financial challenges of the Postal Service," he said.
The rise of email and online banking has taken a deep bite out of postal revenues. A 2006 law that requires massive prepayments for future retiree benefits has drained the agency of cash. The Postal Service relies on the sale of postage, products and services for funding. It does not receive tax dollars.
Since 2006, officials said, the service has cut annual costs by some $15 billion, shed 193,000 jobs, or 28 percent of its career workforce, and consolidated more than 200 mail-processing locations.
Postal officials have long advocated five-day delivery, while seeking congressional relief from the benefit prepayments.
But with lawmakers unable to agree on a plan to restore the agency to solvency, the service's board of governors last month directed officials to stop waiting for legislation and accelerate cost-cutting measures on their own.
Rep. Elijah Cummings of Baltimore, the top Democrat on the House committee that oversees the Postal Service, said that "comprehensive postal reform legislation" must be "an urgent priority" for Congress.
But he added that "the issue of service delivery frequency should be addressed in that legislation rather than through arbitrary action by the Postal Service."
The American Postal Workers Union, the National Association of Letter Carriers and the National Rural Letter Carriers' Association all opposed the plan.
Cliff Gurley, president of the 222,000-member APWU, said it would "only deepen the agency's congressionally manufactured financial crisis."
Rep. Darrell Issa, the Republican chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, called five-day delivery a "money-saving, smart move" that will "be a step in rightsizing the post office."
At the Dundalk office, 20-year-old pharmacy technician Kelley Blann said the postal service's decision wouldn't have a big effect on her life because most pieces of mail are "bills that are paid on the Internet."
But many people work on the weekends and can't go the post office during the week, so the change could inconvenience them, she said. And with legal and tax documents that are sent by mail, one day could make a difference, she said.
"I think it's pretty crazy," said her boyfriend, Ryan Willis, an Aldi cashier. "Mail is an important part of your life."
The couple had stopped by the post office to fill out a change-of-address form after a recent move. Willis, 23, said the postal service's move to cut Saturday could hurt employees who need the hours.
"I think they should add Sundays," he said.
Stuart Strick, 62, said he understands why the postal service is looking to cut costs.
"I often don't get mail on Saturdays, so it really won't affect me that much," said Strick, a longshoreman who was dropping a work-related form in the mail.
"They do need to do something," he said. "They're in the hole financially."
December 2006: Congress requires the Postal Service to pre-fund 75 years' worth of future retiree benefits within a 10-year span.
July 2011: Postal Service announces plan to close 3,700 small or rural Post Offices (number of closures later reduced).
December 2011: Postal Service announces plans to close more than half of its mail-processing centers and cut 28,000 jobs.
April 2012: Senate approves legislation to allow the Postal Service to offer retirement incentives to 100,000 employees and recover $11 billion from pension funds. House does not move a bill.
Feb. 6, 2013: Postmaster General Patrick R. Donahoe announces plan to end home delivery of first-class mail beginning in August.
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