Mail Volume Falls 1.1 Billion Pieces

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The U.S. Postal Service's losses continue to mount as businesses and consumers sent 1.1 billion fewer pieces of mail in the Sept. 5-Oct. 8 period, chief financial officer Richard J. Strasser Jr. said yesterday.

Strasser had said last week that volume would decline 5 percent to 6 percent for that time compared with last year, but yesterday he reported a decline of 6.6 percent.

The USPS projects an 8 percent to 10 percent decline for October from a year ago.

Postmaster general John E. Potter said he would request emergency funding when he addresses a Senate Appropriations Committee meeting tomorrow to help the postal service recover part of lost business as well as sanitize and secure the national mail infrastructure.

Despite the distressed environment, Strasser said, USPS expenses are $100 million below plan. Before the current losses, the agency forecast a $1.4 billion loss for fiscal year 2002.

At its meeting, the USPS board of governors paused to honor the postal workers who have died or been affected by the anthrax attacks. Potter characterized the experience as "the most difficult and sad times in postal history."

Officials also discussed their responses to terrorism in the mail, including:

-- Anthrax testing of more than 260 facilities nationwide.

-- Remediating facilities where even trace spores were discovered. Four facilities remain closed: Brentwood, Washington's main post office; Pentagon Station; the Trenton, NJ, distribution center; and the Kansas City stamp fulfillment center.

-- Testing 8,800 employees for anthrax and providing antibiotics to 16,000 employees as a precaution. Two employees remain hospitalized.

-- Buying 4.8 million masks and 90 million gloves for mail sorters to use when handling mail.

-- Offering free flu shots to the postal work force.

-- Buying machines to sanitize the mail and using existing private-sector sanitization equipment on an interim basis for suspicious mail.

The governors voted to withdraw a request for a decision from the Postal Rate Commission on an experimental suspension of the fee for the manual Delivery Confirmation service category during a proposed December trial period.

In other news, wire reports said that the postal service might begin marking letters and packages that have been inspected for anthrax and cleared for delivery.

"We're working with [our] marketing people and consumer advocates to see if there's a way we could let people know that mail has been sanitized," Azeezaly Jaffer, vice president of communications, told USA Today.


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