Mail Call Grows Fainter: Post Office to End Saturday Delivery
In her home at Rogers House in Lebanon, Betty Abbott, 89, talks about the decision of the postal service to no longer deliver mail on Saturday. “The big dogs get paid too much in the Post Office, just like the Congress and Senate and all of them,” she said. “They are setting their retirements and all of that, and they don’t give a damn about the little man. ... It just bugs me when these young squirts can’t understand what they’re doing to their country.” (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Purchase photo reprints »
Michael Rivers, of Athol, Mass., taking a break outside the VA Hospital in White River Junction yesterday, said the end of Saturday mail delivery is “just sad because it’s been an institution since it started.” (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Purchase photo reprints »
After having her lunch, Carman Deuso, who turns 75 tomorrow, reads in her home at Rogers House in Lebanon yesterday afternoon. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Purchase photo reprints »
Debbie McGrath, of White River Junction, said she is not happy Saturday mail delivery will be stopped.
(Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Purchase photo reprints »
Lebanon — No more mail delivery to homes and businesses on Saturdays: That’s the plan announced yesterday by officials from the financially troubled United States Postal Service, who said the agency will continue delivering packages to street addresses once regular mail service on Saturdays ends mid-summer.
Post offices currently open on Saturday will remain open, officials said, and mail will continue to be delivered to post office boxes on that day.
The Postal Service expects that curtailing Saturday service — which goes into effect the week of Aug. 5 — will save about $2 billion annually, Postmaster General and CEO Patrick R. Donahoe said in a statement.
“The Postal Service is advancing an important new approach to delivery that reflects the strong growth of our package business and responds to the financial realities resulting from America’s changing mailing habits,” Donahoe said. “We developed this approach by working with our customers to understand their delivery needs and by identifying creative ways to generate significant cost savings.”
The announcement was not unexpected as email takes over snail mail: The agency in November reported a record $15.9 billion loss in the last budget year and forecast more red ink in 2013, capping a tumultuous year in which it was forced to default on billions in retiree health benefit prepayments to avert bankruptcy.
The financial losses were more than triple the $5.1 billion loss in the previous year. Having reached its borrowing limit, the mail agency is operating with little cash on hand.
Nevertheless, some Upper Valley residents reacted to the news with dismay yesterday, expressing concerns about mail accessibility for the elderly and finanically disadvantaged, and fears that yesterday’s announcement could signal a slow dismantling of one of the country’s oldest institutions dating back to the 18th century. Norwich resident Nichole Hastings, an activist who has long worked to in opposition post office closings and cutbacks, said the move brings into play “an interesting economic and spatial disparity” in that if people can’t access a post office box because of lack of availability or cost, “they lose out.”
“Most people that have a (post office box) have money to afford the service,” she said in a Facebook exchange to the Valley News. “Post offices can only house so many (post office boxes), so if folks wanted to change over, some folks would be able to and would take on the service and fuel charge for the box and driving to the box. ... Quite simply, it’s unfair to everyone and perpetuates a class/economic divide between those that have money and those that do not.”
Others, though, thought the move was overdue: Sitting in the lobby yesterday at Rogers House, a public housing residence for elderly citizens on North Park Street, resident Carman Deuso said she thought the move was “something they should’ve done a long time ago.”
“They can save so much money that way,” said Deuso, who worked for a few years at an Iowa post office during the 1960s and ’70s and turns 75 years old this week. “They’re just getting deeper and deeper and deeper (in debt), and they’re always trying to figure out some way that they can save money. They should have stopped Saturday delivery a long time ago.”
Resident Helen Pembricks agreed, suggesting that she receives most of her mail between Monday through Friday anyway, and “if they need to save money, that’s fine.”
But, Deuso noted that what is necessary is different than what she would prefer: “I didn’t say I wouldn’t mind it,” she said, in reference to receiving mail on Saturdays. “I just said it’s something they ought to do.”
The agency clearly thinks it has a majority of the American public on its side regarding the change. Postal Service market research and other studies have indicated that nearly 7 in 10 Americans support the switch to five-day delivery as a way for the Postal Service to reduce costs, the agency said.
The move accentuates one of the agency’s strong points — package delivery has increased by 14 percent since 2010, officials say, while the delivery of letters and other mail has declined with the increasing use of email and other Internet services.
Over the past several years, the Postal Service has advocated shifting to a five-day delivery schedule for mail and packages — and it repeatedly but unsuccessfully appealed to Congress to approve the move. Though an independent agency, the service receives no tax dollars for its day-to-day operations but is subject to congressional control.
Congress has included a ban on instituting five-day delivery in its appropriations bill. But because the federal government is now operating under a temporary spending measure, rather than an appropriations bill, Donahoe says it’s the agency’s interpretation that it can unilaterally make the change.
“This is not like a ‘gotcha’ or anything like that,” he said. The agency is essentially asking Congress not to reimpose the ban when the spending measure expires on March 27 and he said he would work with Congress on the issue.
U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., released a statement yesterday opposing the Saturday cutback plan, saying it will “lead to a death spiral that will harm rural America while doing very little to improve the financial condition of the Postal Service.”
And several people around the Upper Valley yesterday voiced frustration over what they considered mismanagement of the post office, including Michael Rivers, a veteran visiting the Veterans Administration building in White River Junction.
“It’s just sad because it’s been an institution since it started, and it’s another example of mismanaging money,” said Rivers, from Athol, Mass., who added he planned to post about the news later on his Facebook page supporting veterans. While he enjoys using the Postal Service for things like birthday and holiday cards, he also recognizes it’s weightier purpose, such as paying bills, sending letters of support to troops, and its use by prison inmates to maintain connection with society.
“Not everything can be sent online,” he said.
He shared that view with 89-year-old Rogers House resident Betty Abbott, who opposed reducing mail delivery service, even if by only one day.
“Then it will be two and then it will be three and then it will be four — no,” she said. “No, it’s bad.”
“The big dogs get paid too much in the Post Office, just like the Congress and Senate and all of them,” she said. “They are setting their retirements and all of that, and they don’t give a damn about the little man ... It just bugs me when these young squirts can’t understand what they’re doing to their country.”
She feared the consequences for people who don’t have access to or the capability to use computers, such as the poor and elderly.
“It’s the biggest mistake they ever made. That means so much to elderly people, to people who are on the outskirts of town, and people who do not have computers,” she said. “We become fenced in. Communication-wise, we’re fenced in.”
Material from the Associated Press was used in this report. Maggie Cassidy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 603-727-3220.
This article has been amended to correct U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders' party affiliation. He is an Independent from Vermont.