By Bill McAllister, Washington Correspondent
The first hints of what Postmaster General Louis DeJoy wants in his long-awaited 10-year plan suggest that higher postage rates and slower mail deliveries might lie ahead.
The Washington Post reported Feb. 13 that DeJoy wants to slow down mail deliveries as a way to cut down the soaring postal deficits that he has declared must stop.
DeJoy has also said that higher postal rates are “imminent,” an indication that he and the United States Postal Service’s board of governors want to seek some of the new authority the Postal Regulatory Commission has authorized for rate increases above the rate of inflation.
Officially the Postal Service remained silent about what DeJoy is planning to ask.
In a statement attributed to DeJoy, the agency said it “would not be appropriate” to disclose what the Postal Service is planning until it can have more discussions with its stakeholders.
What’s puzzling about the new plan is why DeJoy and the postal governors seem to have adopted a proposal that could lead to even more delays in mail deliveries. That has been the major problem that DeJoy has faced since he took charge of the Postal Service.
The Post quoted two unnamed sources as saying that the postmaster general’s plan calls for placing “all first-class mail onto a single delivery track” that would translate into deliveries in a three-day to five-day window instead of the current two-day standard.
The heads of two large mailing organizations said the newspaper account seems to reflect what they have been hearing from their sources inside the Postal Service.
Michael Plunkett, president of the Association for Postal Commerce, told Linn’s he had “been hearing leaks/rumors” similar to those in the Post article for several weeks.
But he cautioned that changing the standard for delivery times would probably require an advisory opinion from the Postal Regulatory Commission before it could become effective, “unless they’ve come up with a novel way around” that requirement, Plunkett said.
Stephen Kearney, executive director of the Alliance of Nonprofit Mailers, said, “The Postmaster General has promised big changes.”
“I wouldn’t be surprised if slowing down service would be one initiative in the plan,” he said, noting that former Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe implemented a slow-down “not too long ago.”
“We already know that much higher rates already are in the new plan,” Kearney said.
He also added a caution about the DeJoy plan: “Anyone trying to restructure the USPS and its law must have strong bipartisan political capital and an excellent working relationship with the employee unions.
“Right now the party in power and many employees are calling for new leadership.”
DeJoy’s plan is certain to be a major topic at a Feb. 24 hearing of the House of Representatives’ Committee on Oversight and Reform at which the postmaster general and board of governors chairman Ron A. Bloom are scheduled to testify.
The USPS statement made clear that DeJoy has the “full participation and commitment” of the current board of governors to press ahead with his 10-year plan for the agency.
“This work is not only needed, it is long overdue,” DeJoy said.
The White House took note of the empty seats on the nine-member postal board in a Feb. 12 statement, saying that there are potentially four open seats for President Joe Biden to fill.
DeJoy was named postmaster general by a board composed of President Trump appointees.
The American Postal Workers Union has been urging Biden to move quickly to get his nominees on the board.
The statement from the White House said that Biden would be seeking nominees for those seats who share the president’s views and that he would push for the Senate to quickly fill the seats.
It also noted that the board is empowered to name the postmaster general.
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