Recently, the U.S. Postal Service unveiled a 10-year plan that aimed to save the postal service from bankruptcy and threatened extinction. It will increase postage costs, reduce hours at facilities, and slow down delivery times that already lag.
For the average residential or business customer, preparing now for the changes the plan will introduce could save you from future headaches.
The first change rolled out increases the cost of a first class stamp from 55 cents to 58 cents. This hike, effective in August, will go to pay down the $160 billion of debt the department holds - debt that the agency hasn’t paid down in 10 years.
Although postage rates increase every few years, it has tied the regular increases to inflation. These will go to bail out the agency from its debt.
It’s not just regular stamps costing more. Rates for marketing mail and postcards also increased, along with some specialized categories, such as medical mail, periodicals, and money orders. The agency also said rates for shipping will increase.
The overwhelming debt the postal service has on its books isn’t all a result of operational costs. It’s tied to a mandate requiring the agency to have enough cash to fund all postal service workers’ retiree benefits. If every retired postal worker withdrew all their benefits at once, the postal service must have the money to pay that out in a lump sum.
This creates a massive burden for the government, and it’s not unique to the postal service. City police and fire departments, municipal governments, and state agencies have likewise struggled under these accounting rules.
First class mail volumes peaked in 2006. Since then, although the country’s population grew, the volume of mail slips lower each year. People use more email, electronically sign documents, and send fewer letters.
Meanwhile, the amount of packages shipped using USPS and other services, such as UPS and FedEx, went up.
Those trend fluctuations intensified during the COVID pandemic. The amount of packages shipped increased by 40 percent. Simultaneously, marketing mail and junk mail slowed down as companies cut back on their advertising budgets. Meanwhile, just as in other industries, postal workers got sick with COVID-19 and quarantined at home, reducing the workforce.
Now, as mail advertising ramps up again, businesses will find costs have increased.
You weren’t imagining that receiving your mail takes longer than it used to.The COVID-19 pandemic strained the postal service, and it hasn’t recovered yet.
Since July 2020, the USPS on-time report hasn’t reached 90 percent, which means at least 10 percent of mail took longer than 3 days to arrive.
Under the new plan, any piece of mail going 980 miles or less becomes a three day delivery instead of two days. If it’s a coast to coast item going further, the standard will increase to five days. Mail that right now travels via plane will be driven, which substantially reduces costs but increases processing time.
This won’t impact the items people send under priority mail, which will keep the speedier delivery time for a higher fee.
Many of the suggested changes to the postal service are still only proposed plans. Lobbyists and postal advocates have fought some of the changes.
But if the new service standards take effect, what will it mean for you?
You may need to make some changes. If you’re a small business owner, those shipping and postage cost increases could add up quickly. A business such as a law firm or a financial organization might send out large volumes of mail, and those three-cent increases may add up to substantial budget changes.
If you’re a business owner that relies heavily on shipments, you might need to adjust your pricing structure. Individuals who use the mail to send payments or ship items, factor in longer delivery times as a precaution.
Post offices with lower traffic would be susceptible to reduced hours, although it’s not clear yet which post offices this would apply to. If you use a PO Box for your personal or business mail, evaluate if proposed reduced post office hours impact your ability to retrieve your mail.
Some of the changes may seem overwhelming, especially if you depend on your mail to run your business or you haven’t digitized many of your documents. You could consider streamlining your operations with a virtual mailbox service.
Earth Class Mail’s virtual mailbox plans allow you to view mail sent to a virtual mailing address of your choice as it comes to our secure processing facility. You can set up your account so that we automatically scan your mail items and you only have to view and manage the mail scanned in your account. Each piece of mail becomes a high-resolution PDF stored in your account.
You can sort, save, or share those PDFs, so you won’t have to worry about mailing any documents to anyone else or spending time scanning those documents in.
Plus, it allows you to access your mail from anywhere, using the mailbox address you select, as well as have checks deposited automatically. If you need a copy of your physical mail, we can send it to you.
Earth Class Mail depends on the U.S. Postal Service. With their help, we want to make your mail easier and more accessible.
Want to know about how virtual mail works? Read more here.
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