WASHINGTON — Could mail delivery be cut back to three days a week?
That's not under consideration right now, Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe said Wednesday. But it's something that could happen in 15 to 20 years if mail volume continues to decline.
What the Postal Service needs right now are changes in the law allowing it to reduce delivery to five days-a-week and to resolve an annual requirement for it to pay $5.5 billion into a fund for future retiree medical costs, Donahoe said in a telephone interview.
Thanks to the decline in mail volume caused by the recession, and as people shift to the Internet for letters and bill paying, the post office had a loss of $8 billion last year and is headed for a similar loss this year.
In its current financial state, the post office won't be able to make that $5.5 billion payment when its fiscal year ends Sept. 30, Donahoe said. The agency will continue to deliver mail and pay employees and suppliers, he said.
Last month the post office suspended contributions to its employee pension fund in an effort to conserve cash. It noted that because the fund has a surplus of $6.9 billion, the suspension of payments should not affect current retirees.
Over the last four years the Postal Service, which does not receive tax funds for its operations, has cut its staff by 110,000 and reduced costs by $12 billion.
The idea of reducing mail delivery to three days a week was first reported by USA Today, but Donahoe said that was a hypothetical discussion of what mail might be like in the distant future.
Meanwhile, he said, the post office expects to deliver 168 billion pieces of mail this year and it expects delivery of both hard-copy mail, like cards and letters, and packages to continue to be an important business.