Postmaster General Louis DeJoy is calling for longer delivery times for some first-class mail, shorter hours for some post offices and more expensive postal rates — all part of a 10-year reorganization plan for the U.S. Postal Service he unveiled Tuesday.
DeJoy outlined the changes at a news conference with other Postal Service officials.
"This is a very positive vision," DeJoy said. If the Postal Service's long-term financial woes are not addressed, he said, the USPS will "run out of cash and require a government bailout."
Under the plan, "a small percentage" of post offices would have their hours reduced, and "a small percentage" of city stations could be closed.
DeJoy said he "was not in a position right now" to say how much the price of a first-class stamp would rise, but that the service is counting on $44 billion in new pricing authority.
Kristin Seaver, the Postal Service's executive vice president, said the change in delivery times would affect only "the fringes of our network." She said 70% of first-class mail will still be delivered in two or three days under the proposal. Twenty percent of what she identified as coast-to-coast mail "might not arrive for five days."
According to the Postal Service's own standards, first-class mail is expected to be delivered on time 96% of the time, a goal it has not reached for some five years.
In the December holiday rush, the on-time rate plummeted to as low as 38% for some mail, but it has since rebounded to 83% in early March, according to Postal Service statistics.
Consumers have been complaining about delayed birthday cards, bills and prescriptions, and those complaints have reached Congress.
DeJoy told a congressional panel last month that the Postal Service lost more than $9 billion last year and owes some $80 billion in unfunded liabilities because of a congressionally imposed mandate that it prepay the health care costs of its future retirees.
DeJoy is working with lawmakers on legislation that would end that requirement and place retirees within the Medicare program.
He told lawmakers the postal system is "in a death spiral" and needs legislation to help restore it to financial stability.
"My message is that the status quo should be acceptable to no one," he said then.
DeJoy's reorganization plan received a mixed reaction. Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich., who chairs the Senate committee with oversight of the Postal Service, said in a statement he was "concerned that several of the initiatives in this plan will harm service for folks across the country who rely on the Postal Service for prescription drugs, financial documents, running their small businesses, and more."
"Cuts to service standards for first-class mail, limiting hours at local post offices, and making it more difficult for people to access postal products would adversely impact USPS customers across the nation, including in rural and underserved communities."
The American Postal Workers Union, which represents some 200,000 USPS employees, said the plan "contains both positive attributes as well as some proposals that should be of concern to postal workers and customers."
On the plus side, the union cited the plan's "long overdue proposals for upgrading local post offices and enhancing products and services."
But the union said it had "deep concerns" with other elements of the plan. "Any proposals that would either slow the mail, reduce access to post offices, or further pursue the failed strategy of plant consolidation will need to be addressed," its statement said.
The Save the Post Office coalition, a group of labor and progressive organizations, said in a statement, "Asking Louis DeJoy to make a ten year plan for the post office is like asking the fox to build a better henhouse. After his record of destruction, incompetence and self-dealing over the last nine months, the only plans he's qualified to make at this point are his own retirement plans."
President Biden recently announced three nominees to the postal board of governors, which has the authority to replace the postmaster general if it chooses. Biden's nominees include a former lawyer for the American Postal Workers Union, an elections expert and advocate for voting by mail, and a former deputy postmaster general.
It's not clear when the Senate will take up the nominations. Some Democrats have called for Biden to replace all of the board members, each of whom was nominated by former President Donald Trump. DeJoy, a former logistics company executive and major donor to Republicans, including Trump, was made postmaster general last year by the board.