Julia Roberts Goad
WASHINGTON — The financially struggling U.S. Postal Service said Wednesday it would stop delivering mail on Saturdays but continue to disburse packages six days a week.
The service expects the Saturday mail cutback to begin the week of Aug. 5 and to save about $2 billion annually, Postmaster General and CEO Patrick R. Donahoe, said.
“Our financial condition is urgent,” Donahoe told a press conference.
State officials and locals commented on the announcement, with opinions being negative from the state level and largely indifferent locally.
“It doesn’t really matter to me,” Greg Chapman, of Chattaroy, who has home delivery of his mail, said. “What I wish they would do is to keep the post office in Williamson open during the day. Today I had to come to pick up a letter, and I wasn’t sure what hours they are closed during the day. The Saturday hours could be used to keep them here during the week.”
Maxine Daniels, of Turkey Creek, Ky., also has home delivery, but likewise doesn’t mind the change.
“It’s going to hurt people’s paychecks,” she said. “The people working at the post office are probably living paycheck-to-paycheck, like everyone else. But it doesn’t really matter to me.”
Jennifer Estepp, of Varney, gets her mail at the Post Office, but was also indifferent.
“I don’t go to the Post Office to get my mail very often, so it doesn’t bother me. Most small post offices aren’t open all the time anyway.”
Shelia Varney, of Canada, Ky., who gets her mail at the post office, gave her opinion a very succinct way:
“I don’t mind.”
Meanwhile, U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin and U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall (both D-W.Va.) both expressed disappointment at the announcement.
“I am disappointed in the Postal Service’s decision to end Saturday deliveries,” Manchin said. “In our rural areas, these postal facilities are more than just places to send and receive mail — they are truly the lifelines of their communities and can be the only way a town is able to stay connected. Although the Postal Service must cut back on spending and get its fiscal house in order, cutting the muscle instead of the fat from its budget will not benefit the agency and will harm our communities in West Virginia and across our country.”
Under the new plan, mail would be delivered to homes and businesses only from Monday through Friday, but would still be delivered to post office boxes on Saturdays. Post offices now open on Saturdays would remain open on Saturdays.
USPS officials say the move accentuates one of the agency’s strong points — package delivery has increased by 14 percent since 2010, 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 gets no tax dollars for its day-to-day operations but is subject to congressional control.
However, Rahall said the USPS “cannot circumvent the will of Congress which has been explicit in requiring the continuance of six-day mail delivery service for the last 30 years.”
“Whatever basis the Postal Service is claiming to discontinue Saturday mail delivery, it runs counter to the spirit and letter of the law, and I intend to press hard to ensure that the Postal Service abides by the law,” Rahall said. “The Postal Service needs to look at other ways to balance its books rather than cutting off rural customers and undermining its public service obligations.”
“I share the frustration of many West Virginians who believe that the Postal Service is intent upon achieving cost savings through service reductions at rural postal facilities.”
Congress has included a ban on 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 make the change itself.
“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.
The agency clearly thinks it has a majority of the American public on its side regarding the change.
Postal Service market research and other research 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 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.”
But the president of the National Association of Letter Carriers, Fredric Rolando, said the end of Saturday mail delivery was “a disastrous idea that would have a profoundly negative effect on the Postal Service and on millions of customers,” particularly businesses, rural communities, the elderly, the disabled and others who depend on Saturday delivery for commerce and communication.
He said the maneuver by Donahoe to make the change “flouts the will of Congress, as expressed annually over the past 30 years in legislation that mandates six-day delivery.”
The Postal Service made the announcement more than six months before the switch, to give residential and business customers time to plan and adjust, officials said.
Give us your opinion on the USPS’ decision in the Daily News’ latest poll at www.williamsondailynews.com.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.