Seth Perlman/AP file photo

Postal Service Reverses Plans to End Saturday Mail Delivery

USPS will now seek to reduce workforce and raise prices to address fiscal situation.

The U.S. Postal Service has canceled its plans to end Saturday mail delivery on the heels of a congressional mandate to continue with a six-day schedule, the agency announced Wednesday.

USPS’ Board of Governors reached the decision during an April 9 meeting. In its spending bill to fund government for the remainder of fiscal 2013, Congress included a provision to require six-day delivery, as it has done in every spending bill since 1983.

“Although disappointed with this congressional action, the board will follow the law and has directed the Postal Service to delay implementation of its new delivery schedule until legislation is passed that provides the Postal Service with the authority to implement a financially appropriate and responsible delivery schedule,” the board said in a statement. “The board believes that Congress has left it with no choice but to delay this implementation at this time.”

The board added it does not want to burden USPS customers with “ongoing uncertainty” about the agency’s plans, but will continue to support the change in the future.

“Delaying responsible changes to the Postal Service business model only increases the potential that the Postal Service may become a burden to the American taxpayer,” the board said, “which is avoidable."

Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe had estimated the elimination of Saturday mail delivery, while maintaining six-day package delivery, would save the agency $2 billion annually. To address the “extreme circumstances” of the Postal Service’s fiscal state, USPS will reopen negotiations with postal unions in an effort to cut workforce costs. It will also “evaluate further options” to increase rates across product categories, especially products not currently covering their costs.  

The Postal Regulatory Commission recently advised the Postal Service to take advantage of its existing pricing flexibility to raise revenue.

Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del. -- who included a provision to eliminate Saturday delivery in two years in his reform proposal from the last legislative session -- plans to introduce a new bill soon.

“It is imperative that Congress and the administration come together around a set of meaningful reforms in the coming weeks to help the Postal Service survive and thrive in the long term and Chairman Carper plans to do what he can do to make that happen,” a committee aide told Government Executive. “He intends to have legislative language ready in the near future and remains hopeful that he will be able to move a bill in committee soon after.”

On the House side, Carper’s counterpart -- House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif. -- has been vocal in his support of the schedule change and expressed his “disappointment” in USPS’ reversal.

“This reversal significantly undercuts the credibility of Postal officials who have told Congress that they were prepared to defy political pressure and make difficult but necessary cuts,” Issa said in a statement. “Despite some assertions, it’s quite clear that special interest lobbying and intense political pressure played a much greater role in the Postal Service’s change of heart than any real or perceived barrier to implementing what had been announced.”

Issa added he too will continue to work on a bill to overhaul the agency, but said “this reversal will clearly be a setback to such efforts.”