PORTLAND – The U.S. Postal Service has recently seen a surge of media coverage. Some is based upon false assumptions and a lack of understanding about the challenges facing the nation’s postal system.

Here are the facts:

The Postal Service is in a dire financial situation. The problem isn’t that the USPS is inefficient or wasteful. It’s that it has less to do.

Ten years ago, you received bills for your utilities, cable, the phone, fuel and electricity, a car payment or two, the mortgage or rent payment, credit cards, lawn care, bank statements and property or school taxes. You would have mailed nine or 10 checks for payment each month. You might even have sent a card or letter to Grandma or personal friends. Month after month, you’d do the same.

Today, you probably receive electronic notices for many items. You’ll send out two checks, and handle the rest online. Ten years ago, you were part of around 20 separate transactions by mail. Today, you are part of four or six. That’s up to an 80 percent drop due to changes in how America uses communications to conduct business.

In fact, over the past five years, mail volume has declined by 43.1 billion pieces; customer visits have declined by 200 million; and retail transactions have declined by $2 billion. The decline in volume includes First-Class Mail, which has dropped by 50 percent over the past 10 years.

We do not expect to ever regain that mail volume. And there’s no buffer of tax dollars, since the Postal Service’s only revenue is the sale of postage.

We face other challenges as well. In 2006, Congress required USPS to pre-fund retiree health benefits by paying roughly $5.5 billion every year for 10 years, an obligation no other private or public organization endures. Since then, USPS has contributed more than $37 billion to this fund. Without this obligation, USPS would be in the black.

To meet these challenges, we have worked hard to reduce costs, and have the results to prove it. Nationwide, we saved more than $12 billion since 2001 by reducing work hours, eliminated about 130,000 positions through attrition and by restructuring the work force and saved $140 million annually since 2008 by consolidating mail-processing centers.

We no longer have the mail volume or the customer traffic to warrant more than 32,000 postal facilities across the country. Nor do we have the funds to operate them. That’s why we are studying our inventory of postal facilities in a significant way.

For example, Americans can buy stamps — our most common lobby transaction — at more than 100,000 locations across the country including grocery stores, banks and other local businesses. In fact, four out of 10 stamps sold today will be purchased in places like Stop-and-Shop or CVS, places where our customers combine many other errands.

You can even find the post office in the palm of your hand: In its first year of operation, the USPS Mobile App was downloaded more than 1 million times.

The Postal Service is at the center of the trillion-dollar mailing industry that employs more than 8 million people and supports over 7 percent of the nation’s GDP. These are good-paying jobs for families, friends and neighbors who support municipalities and merchants around the nation.

So when the Postal Service’s financial situation is in crisis, it is not just a problem for the Postal Service. It is a problem for the entire country. 

– Special to the Press Herald