The U.S. Postal Service’s march off the fiscal cliff has taken a pause, and in this there is a glimmer of hope for rural mail patrons.
A career postal worker, former letter carrier Megan Brennan, was installed in February as the new postmaster general. It’s still early in her tenure, but key advocates for rural mail customers report she understands service cuts have deeply harmed the postal franchise.
Thanks to a temporary rate increase, postal revenues are up. Expenses are down. But the financial outlook remains perilous, due primarily to a burdensome requirement to pre-fund billions of dollars in future retiree health benefits.
Ms. Brennan has pledged a focus on technology to further cut costs and a focus on improving customer service to retain and attract more business. She will ask Congress to ease the requirement for funding health benefits.
However, she apparently will not renew her predecessor’s call for cutting Saturday deliveries of first-class mail. A spokeswoman says, “We are currently looking to gain consensus and we have not been promoting five day (service) as a key tenet.”
Of course, this sentiment always could change. That is why we take note of a milestone reached last week in efforts to rally Congress to the side of rural mail patrons.
A majority of the U.S. House — a total of 218 members — have signed on as cosponsors of a resolution authored by Rep. Sam Graves, a Republican from Tarkio, Missouri, and Rep. Gerry Connolly, a Democrat from Virginia. The measure instructs the postal service to do whatever it can to preserve six-day service.
“There are millions of Americans whose lifeline to the outside world is the postal service,” Rep. Graves says. “Unfortunately, some people in Washington refuse to acknowledge how important it still is to rural communities.
“USPS will need to make changes to remain viable going forward, but eliminating a core service like six-day delivery is simply not the answer.”
Neither, we might add, is slowing the mail unnecessarily. In this vein, we support legislation recently introduced in Congress by Sen. Tom Carper, a Democrat from Delaware. His bill specifies how the postal service is to institute new measures of on-time delivery.
The bill also proposes a five-year moratorium on closings of mail processing plants. The intent is to allow time for officials to examine how much a previous round of consolidations and closings of these centers harmed service.