Postal service to delay closures

Your neighborhood post office slated for closure might be saved — at least for now.

The U.S. Postal Service said Tuesday that it will delay the closure or consolidation of thousands of post offices nationwide in response to requests from lawmakers who said Congress first needs to pass legislation to overhaul the cash-strapped mail agency.

Post offices and mail-processing facilities will not be closed or merged with nearby locations until May 15 at the earliest. But officials said they plan to continue reviewing the fates of thousands of post offices in the coming months, hoping to resume the closures once Congress approves legislation to reform the system.

“Given the Postal Service’s financial situation and the loss of mail volume, the [agency] must continue to take all steps necessary to reduce costs and increase revenue,” the USPS said in a statement Tuesday.

As part of plans to cut $20 billion in costs by 2015, the Postal Service has proposed closing more than 3,700 post offices and about 250 mail-processing facilities. It also hopes to end Saturday mail deliveries, slow the delivery of first-class mail and change labor-union contracts to possibly cut as many as 120,000 jobs.

Postal officials say the changes need to occur quickly to keep the delivery service solvent, but Tuesday’s move slows the process by five months.

Lawmakers in both parties have resisted the closures, which are unpopular with constituents, particularly in rural areas.

Vermont would lose 15 post offices and a major processing center, closures that Sen. Bernard Sanders (I) said would result in “irreparable” changes to mail service in his rural state.

“If you slow mail delivery . . . you’re laying the groundwork for the destruction of the Postal Service as we know it,” he said in an interview. Sanders is one of 20 senators who signed a letter to Senate leaders last week urging a moratorium on closings, a proposal that appears to have been preempted by USPS’s announcement Tuesday.

Sanders also is sponsoring a bill that would allow the mail agency to be more entrepreneurial.

Competing House and Senate bills that would force cost-cutting and relax some payments to health and retirement systems have cleared committees, but neither has been brought to a full vote.

Ed O’Keefe is a congressional reporter with The Washington Post and covered the 2008 and 2012 presidential and congressional elections.
Lisa Rein covers the federal workforce and issues that concern the management of government.
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