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Post office retreats on eliminating Saturday mail

Pauline Jelinek Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. Postal Service backed down from its plan to eliminate Saturday mail delivery because Congress barred it, officials said today.

But its governing board said it’s not possible for the financially ailing agency to meet cost-cutting goals without altering its delivery schedule. Delaying “responsible changes,” the board said, only makes it more likely that the Postal Service “may become a burden” to taxpayers.

The Postal Service said in February that it planned to switch to five-day-a-week deliveries beginning in August for everything except packages as a way to hold down losses.

But that announcement was a gamble. The agency essentially was asking Congress to drop from spending legislation the longtime ban on five-day-only delivery. Congress did not do that when it passed a spending measure last month.

“By including restrictive language … Congress has prohibited implementation of a new national delivery schedule for mail and package,” the postal Board of Governors said in a statement Wednesday.

“Although disappointed with this congressional action, the board will follow the law and has directed the Postal Service to delay implementation of its new delivery schedule until legislation is passed that provides the Postal Service with the authority to implement a financially appropriate and responsible delivery schedule,” it said.

The board made the decision in a closed meeting Tuesday.

Officials said that to restore the service to long-term financial stability, the agency must have the flexibility to reduce costs and come up with new revenues.

“It is not possible for the Postal Service to meet significant cost reduction goals without changing its delivery schedule — any rational analysis of our current financial condition and business options leads to this conclusion,” the board statement said.

It said “delaying responsible changes to the Postal Service business model only increases the potential that the Postal Service may become a burden to the American taxpayer, which is avoidable.”

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