USPS Finalizes Rules on Nonprofit Insurance, Larger Mailboxes

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The U.S. Postal Service published a final rule yesterday in the Federal Register that lets nonprofit groups mail ads offering general types of insurance -- such as homeowners, property, casualty, marine and professional liability -- at the Nonprofit Standard rate, even if the insurance is underwritten by the nonprofit organization itself.

The ruling came about after the USPS was challenged in U.S. District Court in the mid-1990s by two groups authorized to mail qualifying matter at Nonprofit rates. Each offered insurance to its members, and the USPS had determined that the mailings promoting insurance were ineligible for Nonprofit rates. The court reversed the postal service's decisions.

One group was a fraternal benefit organization that offered life, medical, disability and long-term-care insurance to members. The policies were underwritten by the group itself. The other gave charitable grants for legal research funded through tax-deductible donations of dividends that otherwise would be payable to its members who were insured through group insurance policies that the organization offered. In this case, the policies were underwritten by major insurance carriers.

Under the final rule, which takes effect today, nonprofit mailers could send such material at the Nonprofit rate even if the coverage is promoted by the group in such a way that members may make such types of tax-deductible donations to the organization.

Also, the USPS published a final rule Sept. 3 in the Federal Register that requires new apartment and business buildings to have larger mailboxes. The postal service said the rule, effective Oct. 4, aims to alleviate rising levels of undeliverable mail.

The USPS has stated that small mailboxes in apartment buildings are not large enough to accept today's larger-sized mail, and that 30 percent more mail is undeliverable to apartments than to other households. Nationally, the average is 7.5 percent. The undeliverable rate is 10 percent in high-density metropolitan areas.

The new standard calls for an improved, tamper-resistant box 3 inches high by 12 inches wide by 15 inches deep. Most Express Mail and Priority Mail packages will fit inside the new boxes. The existing vertical apartment mailbox standard of 5 by 6 by 15 inches has been in effect since 1975 despite a rise in volume for flat mail and packages.

The new standard will apply to mailboxes in new construction or buildings that undergo substantial renovations to the area housing the mailboxes.

The USPS also requires buildings to have "parcel lockers" for packages that don't fit into the mailbox. Only one tenant at a time could access the locker when the letter carrier provides the key.

According to the filing, the new rule also strengthens security requirements for mailboxes, incorporates a preliminary review by USPS engineers intended to identify design discrepancies before manufacturers build prototypes; and provides a phased-in period to let consumers become aware of the new standard and incorporate it in development plans.

The USPS proposed the rule in February, before which it formed a consensus committee of representatives from business segments including real estate, mailbox manufacturers, building owners, the construction industry and mailers.

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