U.S. Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe pulled no punches when he talked recently with a roomful of National Newspaper Association editors and publishers.The nation’s post office is going broke, he said July 22 at the 50th annual Government Affairs Conference in Washington, and it needs a long-term strategy rather than another band-aide fix, which in his view includes a cut from six-day to five-day delivery.
“I’m stuck,” he told GAC attendees. “We have to fix this now.”
Having posted a loss of $8 billion in 2010 with projections for another $8 billion loss this next fiscal year, Donahoe told NNA members that the U.S. Postal Service’s annual deficit could grow to $20 billion by the year 2018.
Citing a continued freefall in mail volume and a societal move toward paperless transactions, Donahoe said he has already cut 200,000 employees, frozen salaries for two years on all staff and begun a study regarding closure of up to 3,600 post offices in small, rural communities. And still, he reported, the numbers are coming up red.
“The post office would still be open for a few hours on Saturday,” he said of his plan to drop Saturday delivery. “We could get creative on mail service and we will deliver Express Mail.”
A key piece of the overall puzzle could involve a rollout of what Donahoe called a Village Post Office model. Based on a model soon to debut in Washington state, a Village Post Office could be operated by a business or a government entity, meaning customers could go to the local town hall, library or convenience store for some of the agency’s more popular products, like stamps and flat-rate packaging.
Donahoe also floated the idea of putting newspaper racks inside the post office, in exchange for tradeout advertising.
Nebraska publishers in Washington for the conference visited about the 5-day mail delivery proposal with Sens. Ben Nelson, Mike Johanns and Rep. Adrian Smith. All three members of Congress said they were aware of the issue and took note of NNA’s concern with reduced services, both in terms of its impact on newspapers and regular business mail.
“I’m against dropping Saturday delivery and I’ve told that to the postmaster general,” Nelson said. “He was in my office and I told him I didn’t think it was a good idea to be reducing services as part of a long-range plan.”
The Nebraska Newspaper is a publication of the Nebraska Press Association.