Mail delivery to the doorstep may be a thing of the past as lawmakers consider ways to cut costs to save the cash-strapped U.S. Postal Service, which lost $16 billion in 2012.
According to CNN Money
, the agency is working toward a more "centralized delivery" approach in which residents pick up their mail from a mailbox at the curb or at clusters of mailboxes within their neighborhoods.
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The practice already is being adopted for new houses and developments, and some House Republicans want it rolled out universally.
"A balanced approach to saving the Postal Service means allowing USPS to adapt to America's changing use of mail," said Rep. Darrell Issa, the California Republican leading the House effort to save the Postal Service.
Doing away with doorstep delivery has become a central part of Issa's proposal to save money. Ending door-to-door deliveries would save $4.5 billion a year from the $30 billion the mail service currently spends on delivery.
How? Right now, 35 million residences and businesses get mail delivered to their doorstep. CNN reports that it costs $353 per stop for a delivery in most American cities, taking into account such things as salaries and cost of transport.
Curbside-mailbox delivery costs $224, and cluster boxes cost $160, according to a report from the Postal Service Office of Inspector General cited by CNN.
In addition to the $16 billion lost by the agency last year, it twice defaulted on payments owed to the federal government to prefund retiree healthcare benefits totaling $11 billion. The agency also has exhausted a $15 billion line of credit from the U.S. Treasury.
Nevertheless, the plan has received criticism from unions, which say it would be disruptive for the elderly and disabled, and from otehrs who claim it would be inconvenient and possibly unsafe.
"It's madness," Jim Sauber, chief of staff for the National Association of Letter Carriers, told CNN. "The idea that somebody is going to walk down to their mailbox in Buffalo, N.Y., in the winter snow to get their mail is just crazy."
Others, such as industry groups, support the idea as an alternative to the proposal of cutting Saturday service, which the service floated earlier this year before reversing the decision.
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The Postal Service also continues to struggle with mail volume, especially drops in first-class mail, its big revenue driver, as more Americans move to electronic bill-pay and e-mail. To many critics, the service has become little more than a junk-mail delivery service.
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