WASHINGTON (CBS News) – Get ready for some big changes in your mail service. After losing $16 billion last year, the postmaster general will make an announcement Wednesday that the Postal Service intends to halt Saturday delivery of first-class mail by this summer, Aug. 1, CBS News has learned. That means most mailers, letters and catalogs would not arrive on Saturdays, ending a 150-year tradition.
The plan to shrink delivery from six days a week to five would only affect first-class mail, while packages, mail-order medicines, priority and express mail would still get delivered on Saturdays.
Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., says the move will save the struggling postal service $2 billion a year. “It’s a proper business decision and (in the) long run, good for the Postal Service and good for Americans.”
The Postal Service has lost $41 billion dollars over the past six years as more and more Americans turned to private shippers, email, and online banking.
To save money, the Postal Service slashed hours of service at about half the nation’s 26,000 post offices and trimmed its workforce by 35 percent.
But it wasn’t enough. David Walker, a former government watchdog, is part of a panel looking at possible postal reforms. Walker told CBS News the new measure “won’t come close to solving the postal service’s problem. It’s got to look at more fundamental changes in its infrastructure, its compensation costs, its retirement obligations, and also what it does and who does its business.”
But there’s just so much the Postal Service can do without congressional approval. Despite years of begging by postmasters general, Congress never passed a reform bill that would have given the Postal Service more flexibility to modernize and streamline its service.
Asked whether the Postal Service is making this announcement because they’re trying to force Congress to act, Coburn said, “No, I don’t think so at all. Look, they’re in survival mode. You’re not going to have any post office. I mean, here’s the alternative: They’re losing $25 million dollars a day. A day. They have to do something.”
WHNT News 19 asked people on the street what they thought about the first-class postal reduction.
“A lot of times I do get stuff–sixty percent of it is junk mail–so it’s really not a real issue for me,” says Huntsville resident Curtis Akins.
“I think the Saturday thing may be an issue with some businesses and people who are expecting mail on Saturdays so that maybe an issue with some people but maybe not everybody.”
Technically, the Postal Service is not allowed to its reduce service unless Congress changes the law, but lawyers for the Postal Service think that they have figured out a way around this. Even President Barack Obama has endorsed the plan to cut Saturday service. It was part of his deficit reduction plan last year.