The United States Postal Service (USPS) has not been able to cover its budget since 2007, and has reached the $15 billion limit which it can borrow from the government. The United States House of Representatives Oversight Committee is now making a move that will endeavor to assist the floundering postal service. Over the next decade, many deliveries that are done at the door of a house will be phased out, affecting almost 15 million households. Though many people may be put-out, the survival of USPS could depend partially on ending these doorstep deliveries.
Either curbside delivery or community boxes will replace the doorstep mailboxes. Canada made similar changes that they will be implementing in the fall, as our neighbors to the north begin a five-year-plan to phase out all of their doorstep deliveries.
The Secure Delivery for America Act could potentially save USPS more than $2 billion annually in operational costs. It could also mean that the service will not have to curtail deliveries on Saturdays. The move, however, is not the across-the-board reforms that USPS has been wanting for years. They have been assured by the Oversight Committee that a piecemeal approach has a better chance of success than their proposed all-or-nothing strategy.
USPS spends $380 per year for just one doorstep delivery address. That may not sound like much, until that number is compared to $170 for delivery to a community mailbox. In the middle, at $240, is a delivery at curbside. Addresses in the U.S. with curbside mailboxes are the majority, at 55 million. Another 40.5 million addresses receive community mailbox delivery, while 37.6 million addresses receive their mail at the doorstep.
Of that 37.6 million, only 15 million will be affected. Over the next 10 years, 1.5 million addresses will be converted from doorstep to delivery to one of the other two options each year. The advantage with the communal boxes is that they are locked and safe from inclement weather and thieves. Those with mobility issues will be granted waivers from the conversion, and those who are attached to getting their mail delivered to their door will have the option to pay for it.
Not everyone is on board. Democratic Representative Stephen Lynch from Massachusetts said that he thinks this is a “lousy idea.” Other Democrats spoke up, saying that in many urban areas there is no room for community mailboxes.
In the first three months of 2014, USPS reported a staggering $1.9 billion loss. Even though the postal service has continued to cut costs, increase productivity and had a 2.3 percent rise in revenue from operations, it continues to hemorrhage. Their package delivery business has gone up as the service copes with cost increases due to inflation. The ongoing decline of their first-class mail service, once the pride of USPS, will likely continue as more customers turn to the Internet for correspondence and paying their bills.
Requests by officials at USPS for greater control regarding personnel, cost of benefits, as well as improved flexibility for products and pricing have been advanced legislatively. Congress, however, has been unable to find agreement on a bill that would carry such broad alterations to the service. The end of doorstep delivery is by no means the savior of USPS, but it will serve as a much needed stopgap measure to help ensure their survival.
By Stacy Lamy