Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe announces a plan in Washington to keep… (Chip Somodevilla / Getty…)
WASHINGTON -- The United States Postal Service stayed the sword hanging over thousands of rural post offices, opting instead to cut opening hours in a bid to stem devastating financial losses.
The USPS estimates that the plan will save $500 million a year once it is fully implemented in 2014. A previous proposal to close down more than 3,000 rural post offices completely would have saved $200 million a year.
Under the proposal outlined Wednesday, 13,167 post offices will open for between two and six hours a day. A spokeswoman for the USPS said no post offices will be forced to close, although communities could choose closure and switch to home delivery.
"We've listened to our customers in rural America and we’ve heard them loud and clear -- they want to keep their Post Office open," Postmaster General Patrick R. Donahoe said in a statement. "We believe today's announcement will serve our customers' needs and allow us to achieve real savings to help the Postal Service return to long-term financial stability."
The postal service loses $25 million a day and has proposed controversial measures to eliminate Saturday delivery as well as closures in order to restore itself to profitability.
The Senate last month passed legislation aimed at making it harder to close post offices, particularly in rural areas, and steering the USPS toward other means of saving money.
"I am disappointed the Postal Service is moving forward to reduce post office hours while Congress is still considering reform legislation to put the USPS back on sound financial ground,” Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), one of the Senate bill's sponsors, said in a statement. "But I am encouraged that the announced changes are consistent with the Senate-passed postal reform legislation."
Despite Wednesday's announcement, the long-term future of the postal service hangs in the balance. After the Senate bill passed, Donahoe criticized it for not giving the USPS enough flexibility to make changes and save costs, and predicted that, if enacted, the Senate law would only buy the USPS time, rather than allow it to solve its problems.
The House has yet to move on its own postal reform bill, but the plans it is weighing would permit more aggressive cuts to service than the Senate legislation, which could make hashing out a final law difficult.
Original source: USPS keeps rural post offices open, cuts hours