The U.S. Postal Service’s forthcoming cutbacks at thousands of post offices have gotten a qualified thumbs up from an independent overseer.
In an advisory opinion released today, the five-member Postal Regulatory Commission said that the Post Office Structure Plan, or POStPlan, makes sense from a public policy perspective, but added a few recommendations, such as giving local customers a clear choice between keeping an individual post office open with reduced hours or closing it altogether and providing replacement delivery service.
Under the plan, announced in May, the Postal Service intends to reduce customer service “window” hours to as little as two hours a day at some 13,000 mostly rural post offices in hopes of eventually saving about $500 million annually.
The commission’s opinion is non-binding (in fact, the Postal Service is already winding up a buyout and early retirement deal for postmasters that’s linked to the plan), but its endorsement is further evidence that this approach is a much easier sell than the Postal Service’s now discarded strategy of closing up to 3,700 post offices.
“Given the difficult financial reality facing the Postal Service, I am relieved that the Postal Regulatory Commission has approved the Postal Service’s initial cost-cutting measures,” Sen Tom Carper, D-Del., said in a statement, adding that he is “grateful” that the panel acted expeditiously.
“I will be carefully reviewing the recommendations offered by the commissioners and plan to closely monitor the Postal Service’s implementation of its plan to ensure that it’s done appropriately,” Carper, who heads the Senate subcommittee with responsibility for the mail carrier, continued. “That being said, the hard truth is that cost-saving efforts of this scale are not enough on their own to fundamentally fix the Postal Service’s financial problems. ”