In an effort to rein in its massive debt, the United States Postal Service [USPS] announced Monday morning that the agency would move forward with a proposal that changes delivery time for first-class mail to a two to three day standard delivery for most U.S. destinations.

Standards for a portion of periodicals are linked to first-class mail, meaning some service standards will now be revised for periodicals as well. Currently periodicals range in delivery time from one to nine days and under this proposal delivery would range from two to nine days.

“The U.S. Postal Service must reduce its operating costs by $20 billion by 2015 in order to return to profitability,” says David Williams, vice president of Network Operations for the USPS, according to a news release. “The proposed changes to service standards will allow for significant consolidation of the postal network in terms of facilities, processing equipment, vehicles and employee workforce and will generate projected net annual savings of approximately $2.1 billion.”

There will be some opportunity for individuals to get their mail delivered the following day: according to a news release from the USPS, individuals who properly prepare and enter mail at destinating processing facilities prior to the day’s critical entry time will have their items sent in one day. Overall, the first-class mail changes are part of an overall savings plan for network optimization, which is projected to save up to $3 billion by 2015.

"Given the importance of timely delivery of relevant news and information, MPA is pleased that the Postal Service has revised its planned service changes for periodicals so that publishers who get their magazines to their destination facilities by ‘critical entry time’ will still receive next-day delivery," a statement from the MPA says. "This is a crucial and hard-fought change, which MPA advocated, from the Postal Service’s initial plan to eliminate all overnight delivery service. The overall impact on service remains to be seen, as critical entry times will also be changing, which may present printing and transportation challenges for weekly publications."

As previously reported by FOLIO: sister publication Audience Development, the USPS suffered a net loss of $5.1 billion in 2011 when its fiscal year ended on September 30. Without legislation that allowed it to postpone a $5.5 billion payment to pre-fund retiree health benefits, losses would have been $10.6 billion. In 2011, mail volume dropped by 3 billion pieces when compared to last year and revenue from the first-class mail, which is viewed as the most profitable for the agency, declined $2 billion from 2010 to 2011. According to the USPS, first-class mail accounts for about 49 percent of revenue.

“They’re going on completely the wrong track with this,” says Sally Davidow, spokesperson for the American Postal Workers Union. “They should be trying to improve and modernize services in the digital age, not making cutbacks that make the service less valuable.”

The Postal Service is currently studying 252 out of 487 mail processing facilities for possible closure and is gathering input from the public. The agency will draw its final conclusions on facility closures in early 2012.

The USPS is a self-supporting government entity and receives no tax dollars for operating expenses but relies on the sale of postage, products and services to fund operations.

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