Saturday Mail Delivery Continues But Congress Leaves Postal Service In Limbo

NNA News:

The National Newspaper Association (NNA) this week celebrated the continuation of Saturday mail delivery through the federal fiscal year ending Sept. 30, but lamented the passage of another congressional session without postal reform.

NNA President John Edgecombe Jr. called on publishers to attend NNA’s Leadership Summit March 19 in Washington to urge quick action in the next Congress.

“If common sense had prevailed, a reform bill would have been completed. We had a solid proposal that provided USPS with financial relief, preserved service and implemented health cost reforms. It should have been accepted,” said Edgecombe, publisher of The Nebraska Signal in Geneva, NE.

But disputes among Senate leaders stalled the progress. Congress finally adopted a government funding resolution for 2015 that included a continued mandate for Saturday home delivery. Other reform provisions, including preservation of service standards and reasonable guidelines on USPS’ use of negotiated service agreements to market its advertising mail, never reached the Senate floor. Edgecombe said NNA was disappointed, but he applauded President Obama’s signature of the funding resolution that continued six-day delivery.

He said NNA would highlight declining rural mail service in 2015. USPS is on track to close more than 80 mail processing plants in smaller U.S. cities. It has said it wants to concentrate mail sorting in urban areas, where declining mail volume has left urban plants with idle time. NNA Postal Committee Chair Max Heath said the changes in mail processing ahead would be the next wave in shrinking rural service and focusing processing in urban areas.

“Although USPS has a genuine problem keeping its plants busy, the error was in overbuilding during the fat times. Trying to fix it by carrying the mail further and further down the highways so those big plants can stay busy is simply going to accelerate the problems we have already seen. There is only so much you can do to improve efficiency when you are faced with reality of miles of asphalt.”

“Sadly, we are looking at two different visions of the Postal Service,” Edgecombe said. “USPS management believes it must focus on urban areas in the hope of improving its revenue.

“But that pits the Postal Service against private-sector competition in over-served areas. It abandons the essential needs in smaller towns and under-served rural areas where the service is most critical. Reports of declining mail service in NNA-member towns continue, and I frankly see little change on the horizon unless Congress acts.”

Edgecombe said he was gratified that key senators supported universal service and had tried to broker a bill in the final days of Congress. He thanked Sens. Roy Blunt, R-MO; Jon Tester, D-MT; Tammy Baldwin, D-WI; and Bernard Sanders, D-VT, in particular for leading the effort to wrap up a bill.

“The 114th Congress will be our fourth Congress where we fight for universal service,” Edgecombe said. “We’ll be back. We will go armed with our concerns, including service problems. We have faith that legislation can be passed that preserves mail delivery and sustains the Postal Service.”

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