Postal Service in ‘acute financial crisis’

Postmaster General John Potter addressed the U.S. Congress on Wednesday, asking for flexibility with the mailing schedule and an adjustment to the U.S. Postal ServiceâÄôs funding for health benefits. Mail volume dropped by more than 9 billion packages âÄî 4.5 percent âÄî last year, while costs continued to grow . This translated to a net loss of $2.8 billion last year . âÄúA revolution in the way people communicate has structurally changed the way America uses the mail,âÄù Potter said in his speech, which was posted to the Postal Service website. In the speech, Potter asked Congress to give the Board of Governors the ability to temporarily change the delivery schedule from six days a week to five, which has remained constant over the serviceâÄôs entire history, and to change the retirement programâÄôs funding scheme. âÄúSimply put, the Postal Service is in acute financial crisis,âÄù he said.

Electronic competitor

Pete Nowacki, spokesman for the U.S. Postal Service Northland District , which includes Minnesota, blamed automated equipment for the falling profits. âÄúTwenty years ago, everyone mailed their tax return,âÄù he said. âÄúNow, 75 percent of people in Minnesota file electronically.âÄù Personal business correspondence, especially First-Class Mail âÄî one of the serviceâÄôs most profitable options âÄî decreased due to competition with free online options. Dan Stevens, manager of the post office at 2811 University Ave. SE, said volume has âÄúdropped offâÄù over the 33 years he has worked for the service. Stevens said the idea of eliminating one delivery day had been âÄúthrown aroundâÄù but âÄúnothing ever came of it.âÄù

Past money saving

The possible switch to a shorter delivery week may be a first, but the U.S. Postal Service was working on ways to reduce costs long before electronic competition and yearly losses. The service eliminated jobs by automating the mail sorting process, combining routes and consolidating locations. Nationwide, the service has lost 120,000 jobs from attrition since its peak more than a decade ago. Stevens said the service eliminated four Minneapolis mail routes in 2007 and another two routes around campus last year. The service is freezing hiring and executive salaries, prohibiting the opening of new offices, reducing staff at headquarters and nine district offices, and providing early retirement, which 14,000 employees have accepted . But despite declining volume, Nowacki said the shorter delivery week would only be temporary and no mail carriers will be laid off. âÄúWe still believe that six-day delivery is the best way to provide universal mail service,âÄù he said.