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Pols React to USPS Plan to Continue Six-Day Delivery

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Local members of Congress are pleased to see the U.S. Postal Service withdraw its plan to halt Saturday mail delivery. But the decision still leaves several unsolved issues.

Earlier this week the U.S. Postal service announced that it would delay implementation of a plan to halt Saturday mail service sought by Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe.

The announcement came after the Board of Governors met to discuss a piece of legislation included in the Continuing Resolution passed by Congress last month that requires six-day mail delivery.

A statement from the Postal Service reads, “The Board believes that Congress has left it with no choice but to delay this implementation at this time.” It also says that board will still support the new schedule in order to save $2 billion annually.

Democratic U.S. Congressman Richard Neal of the First Massachusetts district discourages the switch to a five-day delivery schedule. He said that he hopes the decision by the Board of Governors will allow more time for lawmakers to negotiate with the Postal Service.

"The result here is that we can have a conversation about what six day delivery means," said Neal,"and before any measure of this magnitude is adopted that there is a broad-ranging discussion of its consequence."

Michael Harazmus, president of the Mail Carriers Union Local 46 in Western Massachusetts, said that Saturday delivery gives the Postal Service an advantage over private carriers. He said that eliminating 1/6 of the delivery schedule would be a death knell for the agency.

"Eliminating Saturday delivery is going to chase more mail out of the system, and is going to accelerate decline and actually probably put the Postal Service into a death spiral," said Harazmus.

Harazmus explained that there’s a misconception that the Postal Service is wasting taxpayer dollars.

"Eliminating Saturday is not going to save a taxpayer dime," said Harazmus. "The Postal Service hasn't recieved taxpayer funding in 30 years."

Harazmus said that the much of the financial pressure being placed on the Postal Service comes from a Congressional mandate in 2006 that requires future funding of retiree healthcare benefits. According to reports, the postal services is facing a $20 billion gap in funding.

Last month, Massachusetts Democratic Congressman Stephen Lynch – who is running in the U.S. Senate primary —  introduced a bill that would refund the postal service of funds overpaid to the Federal Employees Retirement System in order to stabilize the agency.

"We've got to re-engineer the Postal Service to maintain what we have now, which is a system of universal service to every home and business six days a week. We can do that," said Lynch.

Representative Neal also supports a move addressing the Postal Service’s retiree payouts.

In a statement, Democratic Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney of New York’s 18th District said he was “pleased that Congress passed legislation to ensure USPS does not implement the poor decision to eliminate Saturday delivery for Hudson Valley seniors, veterans and businesses who rely on this essential service.”

However, the five-day delivery schedule is not only favored by the postmaster general, but is also included in President Obama’s recently released federal budget proposal.

Michael Harazmus of the Mail Carriers Union said he’d like see a different approach. "Some people that you should be going seven days in today's world, in today's economy."

Lucas Willard is a reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011.
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