UPDATE: Begich, Murkowski weigh in on mail announcement

Update from AP

Sen. Mark Begich says the U.S. Postal Service’s decision to stop delivering all Saturday mail except for packages is “bad news for Alaskans.”

In a release Wednesday, he said the decision will “undoubtedly slow overall delivery time.” He said the agency should have let Congress address the issue.

The cash-strapped agency expects to save $2 billion annually with the change, set to take effect in August. The agency suffered a $15.9 billion loss in the past budget year.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski says the time has come for the Postal Service to evaluate how it does things.

She says she has wanted to ensure Alaskans maintained access to postal services for critical prescriptions and commercial deliveries without added expense or harm to the economy.  She says this proposal satisfies her concerns.

Original Story

Calling it “absolutely necessary” if the U.S. Postal Service is going to stop losing billions of dollars a year and reach anything close to financial stability, Postmaster Gen. Patrick Donahoe confirmed Wednesday morning that USPS is moving to eliminate Saturday delivery of first-class mail.

“Beginning the week of Aug. 5 this year,” Donahoe said, USPS will provide “six days of package delivery and five days of mail delivery. … We will not deliver or collect mail on Saturdays.”

Its decision could, however, run into challenges from Congress and from unions that represent the Postal Service’s employees. Donahoe made the case, though, that USPS has no choice. The Postal Service, which lost nearly $16 billion last year, will save about $2 billion a year with this change, Donahoe said.

Eliminating Saturday mail delivery, said Donahoe, is “just one part of a much larger strategy to return the Postal Service to long-term financial security.” That strategy has included the closing of many facilities.

As for whether it’s legal for the Postal Service to do this without an OK from Congress, Donahoe said “it is our opinion that the way the law is set right now … that we can make this change.” The Postal Service’s current “continuing resolution … does not bind us” to a six-day delivery schedule, Donahoe said.

Questioned further about the legality of the decision and how members of Congress may react, Donahoe said that “part of my job is to make a very clear and concise argument in front of Congress and in front of the administration that what we’re doing is the right thing.”

What if Congress moves to block the elimination of Saturday service? Donahoe did not comment on how USPS might react to that, other than to say USPS hopes to work with lawmakers on its plans.

With only three short interruptions, the Post Office has been delivering mail six days a week since 1863.

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