PRC to study Postal Service's overall value

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The Postal Regulatory Commission, the administrative group that oversees the US Postal Service, is seeking research assistance from the private sector on the overall social value of the USPS.

The PRC issued an RFP seeking research aid on May 7. However, the initiative is not a reaction to the USPS' 10-year plan to restore financial stability, which includes the elimination of Saturday home delivery, said Norm Scherstrom, media relations specialist at the PRC.

Interested companies must submit proposals by June 21. The commission plans to evaluate them by July 20. The research work is scheduled for three months, according to the RFP.

Among the topics for evaluation are the community and public safety impacts of Postal Service personnel; the role of lower-priced postal products; the environmental impact of mail delivery; and the value of providing affordable advertising and fulfillment options to small businesses.

Scherstrom compared the research to a February report on the USPS' value by the Urban Institute. That study recommended the PRC conduct additional research on the Postal Service.

The Urban Institute's study noted that “[some experts] argued that the USPS could improve its performance by offering more services from mail trucks or more services and goods – such as Internet service, banking, office supplies, groceries and advertising – at post offices.”

As it searches for a firm to conduct the study, the PRC is also examining the Postal Service's plan to cut Saturday delivery. The USPS asked the PRC on March 30 to issue a formal opinion on the possible move to five-day delivery. The commission announced a nearly six-month-long schedule to review the possible service reduction on April 29.

The USPS saw a net loss of $1.9 billion for the first six months of its 2010 fiscal year, which ended March 31. For its 2009 fiscal year, which closed September 30, 2009, the Postal Service ran a net loss of $3.8 billion.

A Postal Service representative could not be immediately reached for comment.

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