Postmaster General Louis DeJoy has delivered his 10-year strategic plan for the United States Postal Service.
The “Delivering for America” plan also promises to help the USPS meet or exceed 95% on-time delivery across its mail and shipping categories within a year, as well as get the Postal Service back in the black after it hemorrhaged $87 billion over the past four years. In fact, the proposal predicts being able to operate in “modest” positive annual net income within three years if the plan is fully implemented.
“Our Plan calls for growth and investments, as well as targeted cost reductions and other strategies that will enable us to operate in a precise and efficient manner to meet future challenges, as we put the Postal Service on a path for financial sustainability and service excellence,” DeJoy said in a statement
But does this mean postage is going up? And is First-Class Mail going to be slowed down? Here’s what we know about the USPS proposal so far.
Prices will stay put – for now
The USPS plan notes that no decisions have been made regarding any additional price changes for 2021, and any subsequent price changes would need to be approved by the Postal Service governors and reviewed by the Postal Regulatory Commission.
A few price hikes did go into effect on Jan. 1 of this year, however, such as Priority Mail shipping service prices increasing about 3.5%, and Priority Mail Express shipping service prices rising 1.2%, with the exact cost varying by product. Read here for more details. The price for mailing a single-piece letter also increased 5 cents to 20 cents for one ounce this year, and postcard stamp prices went up a penny to 36 cents. The First-Class Mail Forever stamp has remained at 55 cents.
First-Class Mail could be delayed a day or two
The Postal Service notes that it has not met its First-Class Mail service targets (delivery within one to three days) for the past eight years, calling the present service standards “unattainable.” So it proposes grounding air transportation delivery in favor of ground transportation, which it claims will be less expensive and more reliable. But as a result, certain First-Class Mail delivery standards would now be a day or two later.
While most (61%) of First-Class Mail and Periodicals (93%) would be unaffected by this change, and still arrive in two to three days, some pieces traveling further could see longer delivery windows. But the Postal Service notes that any changes in First-Class Mail service would have to run through an implementation process first, which would include receiving an advisory opinion from the Postal Regulatory Commission.
A “small percentage” of post offices could close or see their hours cut
“To be blunt, we are not structured properly,” DeJoy said in a video featured on the web page outlining the USPS proposal on Tuesday. So the Postal Service will be evaluating its network in metropolitan areas, and consolidating some low-traffic facilities or modifying hours. In other words, an area with two branches, where one isn’t getting much business, could see the less-traffic post office closed.
“Overall, we project that only a small percentage of our Post Offices will have hours modified, and only a small percentage of city stations and branches will qualify for consolidation,” the USPS said on its site.
The Postal Service has also earmarked billions of dollars toward modernizing its post offices and infrastructure, including $20 billion for its mail and package processing network, such as USPS facility space upgrades and new processing equipment. And it’s flagged $19 billion towards its retail and delivery network, including upgrades to retail lobby spaces and the Next Generation Delivery Vehicles.
Your mail carrier will be getting a new truck and new uniform (eventually)
The proposed $19 billion in retail and delivery upgrades also includes new mail trucks, which delivered some strong reactions when they were unveiled last month. The new design, which will be manufactured by the Wisconsin-based Oshkosh Corp.
features a lower front hood and an extended windshield that can help the letter carriers spot pedestrians and cyclists better. Many of these trucks will be electric vehicles, and the ones that run on gasoline can be retrofitted with new electric systems in the future. The vehicles are expected to roll out beginning in 2023.
The Postal Service plan also mentions “new employee uniforms” in its planned investments for carriers, as well as new mobile hand-held devices to improve tracking and point-of-delivery services.
Look forwarded to expanded services, like rescheduling package deliveries and drop-off points
Those new mobile hand-held devices mentioned above are part of the Postal Service’s plan to enhance its Informed Delivery service, which currently lets consumers track packages or preview their letter-sized mailpieces for free. The expanded Informed Delivery service will give mail carriers more direction on where to leave packages or pick them up. It will also let customers notify the USPS to hold mail, or to reschedule when a package should be delivered to their homes — which could be an essential tool in battling package theft. The Postal Service notes that delivery will continue to play a larger role in people’s lives every year, even post-pandemic, so it’s planning to play a larger role.
Check out the full USPS report, and answers to some frequently asked questions here.
DeJoy’s plan drew some mixed reactions on Tuesday. While the American Postal Workers Union representing 200,000 USPS employees praised the “long overdue proposals for upgrading local post offices and enhancing products and services,” it expressed “deep concerns” about any proposals that would slow the mail or limit access to post offices.
Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.), who chairs the Senate committee that oversees the Postal Service, shared a statement noting 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.
He continued, “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 new USPS plan renewed some calls for DeJoy to be removed from his post, and his name trended on Twitter
on Tuesday. Democratic lawmakers have been calling for DeJoy to be axed since last year, accusing the Republican donor of making changes to the USPS, like cutting overtime and removing postal-sorting machines, that delayed mail delivery ahead of last year’s presidential election when a record number of Americans were voting by mail. DeJoy has been called before the House Oversight Committee twice in the past year to address widespread delays in mail service, including an appearance last month where he said that he plans to stay on as the postmaster general for “a long time.”
Congress doesn’t have the authority to ax DeJoy, however. Only the Postal Service’s Board of Governors can appoint or remove the postmaster general — although that board is nominated by the U.S. president and confirmed by the Senate. Biden recently nominated two Democrats and a voting rights advocate to fill three of four vacancies on the current board. If they are confirmed by the Senate, Democrats and Biden appointees would hold a 5-to-4 majority, which would be enough votes to remove DeJoy.