AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
Postmaster General Louis DeJoy unveiled a 10-year reorganization plan for the U.S. Postal Service today. The plan includes raising postal rates and slowing delivery of some first-class mail. DeJoy says the steps are necessary to avoid a government bailout of the Postal Service. NPR's Brian Naylor reports.
BRIAN NAYLOR, BYLINE: Under the DeJoy's proposals, some mail would take longer to arrive at its destination, and some post offices might see their hours reduced or close entirely. But he says there's little choice.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
LOUIS DEJOY: If not addressed, not only will our service continue to deteriorate, but we will forecast - we will lose approximately $160 billion over the next 10 years. But long before that, we will run out of cash and will not be able to continue operations without a government bailout. We are not for that.
NAYLOR: The Postal Service lost more than $9 billion last year alone. Meanwhile, delivery times have plummeted, with mail users complaining of delayed bills, birthday cards and prescriptions. The Postal Service says part of that is due to pandemic-related personnel problems. But officials also blame a processing and delivery network that has been underfunded and built around volumes of first-class mail that no longer exist. DeJoy said his proposal will change that.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
DEJOY: Our plan, Delivering for America, takes our challenges head-on, frames a positive vision for our future, charts a dynamic course to get us there and dramatically changes the trajectory of our organization.
NAYLOR: Postal Service officials say the proposed changes in first-class mail deliveries won't be felt that widely and will affect only small parts of the postal network, and that 70% of first-class mail will still be delivered in two to three days. Long-distance mail will take longer. The longer delivery times are in part due to the Postal Service's plan to all but eliminate using commercial aircraft to move mail across the country, instead relying on trucks. Under the proposal outlined today, the Postal Service says a small percentage of post offices could see their hours reduced or closed altogether, especially in cities. But mail will still be delivered six days a week. Postage will also go up, but DeJoy couldn't say today by how much.
DeJoy's plan places an increasing emphasis on package deliveries, an area where the Postal Service makes money, as well as improved services for small businesses. Democrats, who've been very critical of DeJoy's leadership, reacted negatively to the proposal, but they have little say in its implementation. DeJoy only needs the Board of Governors' approval for most of his proposed changes. And while President Biden has nominated three new members, the board is still controlled by former President Donald Trump's nominees.
Mark Dimondstein, president of the 200,000-member American Postal Workers Union, says he likes the proposal's commitment to service, but is troubled by other aspects.
MARK DIMONDSTEIN: Those kind of things that are either slowing down mail, reducing hours at neighborhood and local post offices, closing more plants and sortation processing centers, those things run counter to the kind of excellence that the people of the country need. So our concerns lie in those areas.
NAYLOR: DeJoy is counting on Congress to provide relief in the form of ending its mandate that the Postal Service prefund its retiree health benefits and instead allow postal workers to enroll in Medicare. That, it says, would save the Postal Service some $44 billion over 10 years and has broad support in Congress.
Brian Naylor, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.