An increase in postage rates planned by the United States Postal Service to offset expected losses has met with opposition from publishers and mailers, as well as members of Congress.
“We believe that the PRC, Postal Regulatory Commission, did not have the power to approve a rate increase above the rate of inflation, which they did,” said Brett Wesner, president of the National Newspaper Association. and owner of 10 newspapers in western Oklahoma. , including the Cordell tag. “If they don’t have the right to do it, it can’t hold. It must be reversed. “
The Postal Service has announced plans to increase the cost of mailing letters and postcards by 6.9% on average as of August 29. heels of a 1.8% increase in January.
Oklahoma Rep. Frank Lucas (R, Cheyenne) joined 11 other House Republicans and nine House Democrats in writing a letter on July 1 asking the Postal Service to postpone the increase until January 2022. The letter stated that the increase was “premature and counterproductive”.
“We have heard clearly from employers in our districts and across the country that a second increase in a single year would be very disruptive and result in significant job losses and a significant reduction in their use of the Postal Service’s postal services,” the lawmakers said in their letter. “Many of these businesses, especially small businesses, cannot afford a second raise, claiming that such action will reduce income and lead to job losses.”
The increase will also have an impact on businesses, with higher prices for shipping marketing materials.
The Postal Regulatory Commission, which is an independent body that oversees the postal service, approved the price increase request on July 19, allowing the USPS to proceed with the increase. Despite approval, the proposal met with opposition.
The newspaper, magazines and nonprofit shippers filed a petition with the United States Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit on April 13, seeking to review the PRC’s authority to approve price increases. higher than inflation. Pleadings have been set for September 13.
On July 26, the group asked the court to stay the increase at least until the court rules on the appeal. The court has not yet responded.
Wesner said community newspapers depend almost entirely on the postal service to deliver their newspapers. With the newspaper and its readers struggling during the pandemic, it is not possible to pass the cost on to their customers.
“We really think this is an inappropriate gesture, it is not necessary. And the timing is horrible, ”Wesner said. “The tariffs haven’t gone into effect yet, so we haven’t seen any newspapers shut down specifically because of these tariffs. But it wouldn’t surprise me at all to see some people just say, well, that’s the last straw.
Wesner said more than 2,000 newspapers have closed in the past 10 years, for various reasons such as declining readership and advertising.
Phillip Reid, owner of 11 Oklahoma newspapers, said it was difficult to increase the price of newspaper subscriptions in small markets because readers believe newspapers shouldn’t be expensive. Postal rate increases drastically reduce the profit margin, he said.
“In all our cities which [our newspapers] are, we’re the Post’s biggest customer, ”Reid said. “Now that looks like a penalty. “
Reid’s print shops send out about 65,000 copies, and Wesner sends out about 20,000 a week. With over 200 local newspapers in Oklahoma and thousands across the country, Wesner said, if postage rate increases are approved, some newspapers will close and that won’t help the post office’s operations either. .
Jeff Mayo, owner of Seven Oklahoma Newspapers, said newspapers are under tremendous pressure to continue covering their communities due to the dwindling number of local newspapers.
“We strongly support our post office, but this price increase on top of the likelihood of reduced service is not a good deal. Neither for the newspaper nor for our readers, ”Mayo said.
Harve Allen, spokesperson for the Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce, said nonprofits would also be affected, due to the letters they send asking for donations.
Scott Martin, president of the Norman Chamber of Commerce, said businesses could be affected because “these increased tariffs could have a huge impact on their overheads, thus increasing the cost of goods and services billed to their customers.”
Next month’s price hike is part of the Delivering to America plan, which the Postal Service says would reverse expected losses of $ 160 billion over the next 10 years. Postmaster General and CEO Louis DeJoy said that even with the increase, the USPS has some of the lowest letter postage rates in the world and continues to offer great shipping value.
The Postal Service has also suggested reducing post office opening hours and extending mail delivery time, as the agency will shift some services to ground transportation instead of air transportation. The Postal Regulatory Commission has already rejected increased shipping times.
Lawmakers said they were working on several postal reform proposals to provide the postal service with financial relief from unique and long-standing funding obligations. For example, the Postal Service Reform Law will include the removal of the requirement for the postal service to pre-finance all of its health care benefits to retirees.
“As we continue to work to ensure the long-term financial viability of the Postal Service through legislation, we believe it is essential that the Postal Service does not take any action that would weaken its long-term financial success by chasing mail clients. market, ”they wrote.