Postal Service Delays Closings Until May

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NEW YORK (MainStreet) – Hundreds of post offices got a stay of execution Tuesday as the cash-strapped Postal Service agreed to put off any planned closings until mid-May.

The Postal Service has faced multibillion-dollar budget deficits for the past few years and planned massive cuts to get itself back in the black. Plans included the closing of 3,700 post offices and 252 mail-processing facilities, with the latter resulting in the termination of next-day first class mail delivery.

The reprieve came about thanks to a request by 15 senators – all Democrats – who gave various rationales for opposing the cuts. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) noted that 1,800 Illinois residents would be put out of work by the closures, while Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska) argued that post offices served as the center of rural Alaskan communities.

While these are all legitimate objections, the moratorium certainly has the feel of kicking the can down the road. Several of the senators alluded to the need for “long-term solutions” and Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) said that he wanted to give Congress "time to get the U.S. Postal Service’s financial house in order and make needed, reasonable reforms.”

When we asked readers last week what reforms they would make to get the Postal Service back on its feet, we heard a number of creative solutions. Reader David Backlin suggested reducing staff, noting that his local post office “has three people working when there's no one in line.” Neal Phillips recommended raising rates, a plan the Postal Service is approaching tentatively by raising the price of stamps by a penny starting Jan. 22. And reader David Andre Arce recommends a number of revenue-boosting fixes, including selling ads on the Postal Service Web site and consolidating by relocating post offices in shopping centers and grocery stores.

We’ll see what the government comes up with in the next six months to save the Postal Service from its mounting difficulties, but if lawmakers can’t get as creative as readers have, all the senators have done is put off the inevitable.

MainStreet readers aren't the only ones brainstorming solutions for the Postal Service's money woes. Here are ten proposed solutions for saving the post office.

Matt Brownell is a staff reporter for MainStreet. You can reach him by email at matthew.brownell@thestreet.com, or follow him on Twitter @Brownellorama.

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