Instead of being shut down, operations at 13,000 rural post offices will be trimmed, Postmaster General Patrick R. Donahoe said May 8.
The move will spare operations and workers at 139 Maryland post offices from the axe in the latest U.S.Postal Service (USPS) initiative to address a $14 billion deficit, Donahoe said in a news release. The plan will tailor hours and resources and result in some rural post offices being open as little as two hours a day.
“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,” Donahoe said.
Donahoe said the new changes would strike a balance between “customer need” while also allowing space “to achieve real savings to help the Postal Service return to long-term financial stability.”
Teetering on the brink of going broke, the USPS has struggled in the past year as a result of growing competition with smart phones, private mail carriers, and technology that is shrinking down its consumer base.
“Customer needs have changed dramatically over the years. Customers receive and pay their bills online and communicate using email and text messaging,” said Yvette Singh, US Postal Service representative for Maryland.
“Under the new proposal, access to the retail lobby and to P.O. Boxes would remain unchanged, ZIP Code and community identity would be retained, and these Post Offices would continue to be staffed by postal employees.”
In addition, USPS will replace full-time career employees with part-time workers, according to USPS Chief Operating Officer Megan Brennan.
Changes in the current hours of operation will take place this year, but no earlier than Labor Day. The rest of the changes are to be phased in by September 2014. With shorter hours in rural areas, the USPS estimates that it will save $5 billion every year, once the entire program is in place. Post offices in low traffic areas will operate on schedules consisting of two, four, or six hours, again, depending on demand.
Congressional critics say Donahoe’s actions are not enough. “The truth is that reducing hours in rural post offices will not save significant amounts compared to the Postal Service’s overall budget,” says Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.
“Stopgap, piecemeal measures like the proposal offered today only address a small part of the problem and will not keep the Postal Service from an imminent collapse,” says Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del. “The Postal Service needs a comprehensive solution, not more tinkering around the edges.”