The U.S. Postal Service announced a new strategy on Wednesday (May 9) aimed at keeping rural post offices open, while tackling the objective of cutting costs.
The USPS says it is losing close to $8.5 billion a year.
The newly announced plan would keep post offices open, but with “modified retail window hours” to match customer use. Access to the retail lobby and for P.O. boxes would remain unchanged. Postal officials said the town’s zip codes would be retained.
“Meeting the needs of postal customers is, and will always be, a top priority. We continue to balance that by better aligning service options with customer demand and reducing the cost to serve,” said Postmaster General and CEO Patrick R. Donahoe. “With that said, we’ve listened to our customers in rural America and we’ve heard them loud and clear – they want to keep their Post Office open. We believe today’s announcement will serve our customers’ needs and allow us to achieve real savings to help the Postal Service return to long-term financial stability.”
The new strategy would be implemented over a two-year period and would not be completed until September 2014. Once implementation is completed, the Postal Service estimates savings of a half billion dollars annually.
The USPS will also institute a voluntary early retirement incentive for more than 21,000 non-executive postmasters.
U.S. Senator Mark Pryor (D) applauded the move.
“The Postal Service is meeting us halfway, which is a win for small communities who were about to lose their post offices entirely. I will continue to work with Arkansas communities to ensure their voice is heard before changes occur,” Pryor said.
Pryor’s statement noted that Arkansas currently has 619 post offices. The USPS estimates that 397 of them will operate on a reduced schedule.
Other federal officeholders chimed in:
Rep. Tim Griffin (R-Little Rock)
“After numerous conversations and contacts with the USPS, I am encouraged that they have found a way to save money while maintaining limited services at a number of post offices targeted for closure in the Second Congressional District. I’ve worked hard to make sure the views of Arkansans impacted by these proposed closings are known, and I am convinced that the best path forward for the USPS lies in bold reform not another expensive Washington bailout.”
Rep. Mike Ross (D-Prescott)
“While I disagree with the planned reduction in retail hours, I am pleased with the U.S. Postal Service’s decision to abandon its plan to close post offices in Arkansas, after multiple requests by me and other Members of Congress to halt the process. The financial problems plaguing the U.S. Postal Services are due to failed management, inadequate planning and poor business practices – problems that closing rural post offices across Arkansas won’t fix,” said Ross. “I have sent multiple letters to the Postmaster General, had numerous conversations with Postal Service representatives, had senior staff from my congressional office attend public hearings on each of the proposed closures in our congressional district, and led a congressional effort to halt the closing of these postal facilities. I’m glad postal officials have finally listened to us. The Postal Service must find other cost-cutting alternatives that do not disproportionately hurt people on fixed incomes or those that live in rural areas.”