The U.S. Postal Service has backed off its earlier announced plan to shut down as many as 3,700 post offices (most of them in rural areas), and has instead come up with a strategy aimed at shortening retail window hours to match customer use. The USPS has also provided a framework to achieve significant cost savings as part of the plan to return the organization to financial stability.
While modifying the hours when the retail windows would be open, the USPS says that access to the retail lobby and to PO boxes would remain unchanged, and that individual towns’ ZIP Codes and community identities would be retained. There had been a fear that by closing thousands of rural post offices and consolidating small towns into a single post office branch that the identity of these communities would be in jeopardy.
“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,” says Patrick Donahoe, Postmaster General and CEO.
“The Post Offices in rural America will remain open unless a community has a strong preference for one of the other options,” adds Megan Brennan, COO of the USPS. “We will not close any of these rural Post Offices without having provided a viable solution.”
The new strategy would be implemented over a two-year, multi-phased approach and would not be completed until September 2014. Once implementation is completed, the USPS estimates savings of a half billion dollars annually.
The USPS will provide an opportunity for the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC) to review this plan prior to making any changes. The USPS intends to file a request for an advisory opinion on the plan with the PRC later this month. Community meetings would then be conducted to review options in greater detail. Communities will be notified by mail of the date, time and location of these meetings.
This new option complements existing alternatives, which include:
· Providing mail delivery service to residents and businesses in the affected community by either rural carrier or highway contract route;
· Contracting with a local business to create a Village Post Office; and
· Offering service from a nearby Post Office.
A voluntary early retirement incentive for the nation’s more than 21,000 non-executive postmasters was also announced.