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USPS to cut costs instead of closing offices

The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) has announced today an alternative plan aimed at cutting costs to keep small post offices open, confirmed Sue Brennan, USPS senior public relations representative. USPS has also implemented a voluntary moratorium on all postal facility closings through May 15 and an early-retirement incentive for more than 21,000 non-executive postmasters.

“After conducting more than 4,000 community meetings, we heard from customers very clearly that they want to retain their post office in their town,” said Brennan in an email. “After viewing the offices, it was determined that we could retain offices, but with modified hours and still save money.”

The plan aims to save $500 million annually by modifying the retail window hours to match customer use, rather than close rural post offices, according to a USPS release. Brennan did not elaborate on exactly by how much the hours would be modified. Access to retail lobby and PO Boxes will remain unchanged and the town’s zip code and community identity will be retained.

The new strategy will be implemented over two years and completed by September 2014. The USPS will file a request with the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC) later in May for an advisory opinion and to review the plan before making changes.

“The post offices in rural America will remain open unless a community has a strong preference for one of the other options,” said USPS chief operating officer Megan Brennan in a statement.

The suggested measures complement existing alternatives, which include providing mail delivery service by rural carrier or highway contract route to residents and businesses in areas originally targeted for office closures; partnering with local establishments to provide services; and offering service from a nearby post office.

During the 2012 National Postal Forum (NPF) in Orlando in May, Deputy Postmaster General Ron Stroman alluded that the closure of brick-and-motar locations was inevitable.

In July 2011, USPS announced that nearly 3,700 post offices would be studied for potential closures in the wake of continued mail volume decline, ongoing financial challenges and changing customer behavior. USPS held thousands of community meetings and conducted a study in affected locations, which it then used to construct the alternative plan, according to a separate statement.

After the U.S. Senate approved legislation intended to reform laws that govern the postal service at the end of April, Thurgood Marshall Jr., chairman of the USPS board of governors said that the USPS loses $25 million every day and asked the Senate for help to put the postal service back on the path to financial stability.

The “bottom line is that the Senate bill does not provide the postal service with the flexibility and speed it needs to have a sustainable business model,” Marshall said.

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