USPS truck

A mail truck makes its way down the street at the intersection of South Broadway and Judicial in Blackfoot in April 2019.

The United States Postal Service is proposing to implement many changes over the next 10 years in an attempt to solve its financial deficit. For Idahoans, the changes could mean a longer delay than most areas of the country would see in the delivery of many of the mail items they receive.

An analysis of the 10-year plan from the Washington Post published June 24 concluded that Idaho residents would have to wait an additional .6-.8 of a day to receive their mail on average. That is a longer delay than most of the country will face but is consistent with the western region of the U.S. seeing longer mail delivery times.

“I’m all for service,” said John Paige, a former Chubbuck letter carrier. “Everyone should get the same service whether they live in a rural area in Idaho or in a big city like Los Angeles.”

According to the analysis, 44% of first-class mail would have a longer delivery time than the current standard for mail recipients in southeastern Idaho under the proposed plan.

First-class mail in the U.S. currently has a delivery standard of two days if traveling up to 280 miles, and three days if traveling more. With a new four- and five-day delivery standard under the new plan, 32% of mail delivered to the southeastern Idaho region would arrive in four days and 12% would arrive in five days.

The new plan allows two days for items traveling as far as 139 miles, three days for 930 miles, four days for 1,907 miles and five days for anything beyond. With those adjustments, the plan estimates an on-time delivery rate of 95%.

The Postal Service said in a Thursday news release that the plan is a strategic effort to shift to more ground deliveries and decrease reliance on limited cargo capacities of third-party air carriers. Recent service improvements in July, including a near 2% increase in f{span}irst-class mail delivered on time against the USPS service standard to reach an overall on time mark of 89.3%, were a result of the new strategy, the agency said in the release.

Paige said this is a cutback in service, and he doesn’t believe it is the right way for the Postal Service to respond to its projected $160 billion deficit over the next decade.

Much of that the Postal Service’s financial troubles stem “from a 2006 Congressional requirement that the Postal Service prefund employee retirement benefits 50 years into the future,” the Billings Gazette reported. The prefund mandate has cost USPS $153 billion since fiscal year 2007 according to USPS.

“They’re looking for ways to cut back in service any way they can, and it just irks me a little bit because I was out there for (43) years, and I wanted to take care of my customers. I really cared about them, and I think they should get what they paid for,” Paige said.

On June 21, attorney generals from 21 states wrote a letter to the Postal Regulatory Commission to oppose the changes, arguing they would discriminate against mail recipients based on geography.

Sen. Jim Risch, R-Idaho, recognizes the need for Postal Service reform, but he said any reform must be customer-focused.

“The U.S. Postal Service provides a necessary service to millions of Americans, particularly those in rural communities,” Risch said in a statement to the Post Register. “The Postal Service needs reforms to make it viable in the long run, but any reforms to the agency must be customer-focused, ensuring Idahoans receive the efficient, reliable and timely service they deserve.”

Lemhi County Commissioner Rick Snyder said recent USPS changes to cut costs have negatively impacted people living in rural areas, particularly people who depend on the mail for medical shipments and prescriptions. In 2014, more than 13,000 post offices in the country saw a reduction in hours of operation and postmasters displaced including the post office in Tendoy.

“It really affects us out here,” Synder said. “Anyone who is dependent on prescriptions are not served by any reductions in delivery time.”

Approximately 206 million prescriptions are mailed to customers annually in the U.S., which is nearly 5% of total prescriptions, according to an August 2020 study about medicine spending and affordability from The IQVIA Institute, an independent data firm specializing in the health care system.

The National Rural Letter Carriers’ Association released a statement in March about the proposed 10-year plan and agreed that significant changes are needed for the Postal Service, which the plan properly targets.

“It is true that the Postal Service has struggled with air transportation issues and we understand that the management of the network and the network itself needs improvement,” the statement said. “Adjusting delivery standards are part of those improvements and we expect that those changes will help with controlling some of the late-night deliveries many carriers have had to endure. At the same time, we can’t afford to let service slip; indeed, we need to do better.”

Ernie Swanson, USPS spokesman for Idaho, said the plan is still in its discussion and review state. No final decisions have been made regarding possible changes in service.

Recommended for you