As the U.S. Postal Service considers closing 3,700 post offices nationwide, including 178 in Iowa, the agency is appealing to Congress for more help in cutting costs to stay viable.
The post office is also weighing the cutting of 120,000 jobs. Richard Watkins, a spokesman for the postal service in Iowa, says they’re working to respond to customers’ demands by making stamps available for sale in more places, like supermarkets, pharmacies and retail stores.
“Not only is mail volume down significantly, which most people are aware of, but trips to the local post office are down, also,” Watkins says. “The frequency of visits, the number of transactions is down significantly. It’s not just about rural post offices. It’s about urban and suburban post office stations and branches which we continue to look at also.”
There are now almost twice the number of retail outlets selling stamps nationwide than there are post offices, Watkins says. In the latest request to Congress, postal officials are asking for the ability to make several changes to retirement programs which could save the U.S.P.S. billions of dollars.
“The money that we’re talking about saving isn’t our money, it’s our customers’ money,” Watkins says. “We have to remain viable. The postal service has reduced its career positions by more than 100,000 employees just in the last four years and cut more than $12-billion in costs. We’re looking at everything, transportation, mail sorting operations, retail, delivery operations.”
The postal service is also requesting the power to determine the frequency of mail delivery, which Watkins says may include the elimination of Saturday pickups and deliveries in Iowa and nationwide.
Watkins says, “That is our lightest delivery day and in independent surveys over the past several years, public support both by commercial and residential mailers by a two-thirds margin approve of the postal service cutting back to five-day delivery as opposed to more drastic measures like raising the price of stamps.”
One bill before the U.S. House would shave another six-billion dollars a year from the postal service budget.