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The Postal Service Presses Forward With Unpopular Plan To Slow Some Mail Delivery

The price of a first-class stamp will go up 3 cents later in August to help pay for service changes.
Jenny Kane
The price of a first-class stamp will go up 3 cents later in August to help pay for service changes.

Two of the newly confirmed members of the U.S. Postal Service's Board of Governors spoke out Friday against Postmaster General Louis DeJoy's plan to slow delivery of first-class mail.

But the board took no steps to stop or even modify the 10-year plan despite the concerns expressed by the board members and regulators.

Ronald Stroman, one of three new governors named by President Biden, said that intentionally slowing first-class mail and package delivery by changing service standards is "strategically ill-conceived, creates dangerous risks that are not justified by the relatively low financial return, and doesn't meet our responsibility as an essential part of America's critical infrastructure."

Stroman, a former deputy postmaster general, noted at the Board of Governors open meeting that the country was "only beginning to emerge from a global pandemic" and is now struggling with the delta variant and that mail delivery was below pre-pandemic levels.

He added that the changes "disproportionally impact our seniors, middle- and low-income Americans, [and] small businesses, who are our most loyal customers and most dependent on us."

DeJoy acknowledged the plan calls for some "uncomfortable changes," but he said, "We are confident we are headed in the right direction, which is slightly away from what we have done in the past," which DeJoy contended "has not worked."

DeJoy also acknowledged the opposition to the plan, which he attributed to "stakeholder push back and fatigue," saying, "We are listening and have adjusted some."

But he asserted that critics want the Postal Service "to stop what we are doing, study more, increase service, keep prices low, cut employee benefits," what DeJoy called "single-interest issues disguised as solutions."

He added, "The best days of this thinking and what it has to offer has come and gone."

DeJoy announced his 10-year makeover of the Postal Service, "Delivering For America," in March. It aims to ensure the post office's financial stability by streamlining operations, ending reliance on air transport for long-distance mail, as well as investing in a new fleet of delivery vehicles.

Another new governor, Anton Hajjar, said there "is a lot to like" in DeJoy's plan, but he expressed concerns about ending the use of air carriers to move the mail, saying he hasn't seen the proposed savings "quantified."

Most controversially, the plan would lengthen expected delivery times for much first-class mail, raising opposition from an array of postal users. Twenty-one attorneys general from mostly Democrat-leaning states urged the Postal Regulatory Commission to block the proposed changes.

The commission issued an advisory opinion last month, finding that "estimated annual cost savings for the proposed service standard changes do not indicate much improvement, if any, to the Postal Service's current financial condition."

It also expressed concern that there was no "operational or pilot testing" for the proposed changes.

The commission did, however, give its approval to the Postal Service's plan to raise the price of a first-class stamp from 55 to 58 cents. That increase is set to take effect Aug. 29.

The Postal Service said that its three- to five-day standard for first-class mail delivery was met just 83.6% of the time in its fiscal year third quarter, compared with 88.9% in the same period last year.

It also reported a loss of $3 billion for the quarter, compared with $2.2 billion the previous year.

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NPR News' Brian Naylor is a correspondent on the Washington Desk. In this role, he covers politics and federal agencies.