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The US Postal Service is slowing mail delivery and hiking prices

A mail carrier delivers the mail in Pearl, Mississippi, U.S. January 15, 2020. Picture taken January 15, 2020.
Reuters/Veronica G. Cardenas/File Photo
Count on five days for your letter to arrive.
By Courtney Vinopal
Published Last updated

Americans already feeling the effects of the US Postal Service’s cost-cutting measures may start to notice more changes to their mail starting today (Oct. 1), when the USPS begins service changes that will slow delivery. Starting Oct. 3 the USPS will also impose a holiday season surcharge, resulting in price hikes on everything from parcel returns to priority mail.

How will I be affected?

The standard service changes apply to first-class, regular mail, and periodicals such as newspapers and magazines. The USPS estimates delivery could take one to two days longer if it’s traveling outside of your local area. Whereas Americans could once count on first-class mail to be delivered anywhere in the country within three days, it may now take up to five.

The slowdown is a result of the USPS’s decision to lessen its reliance on air transportation to save money. Under the new service changes, 43% of regular mail that was once transported by plane will now be hauled across the country via rail or truck, according to the USPS.

In addition to slowing down delivery, the Postal Service is also instituting price hikes starting Oct. 3. The holiday season surcharge, which is expected to last through Dec. 26, ranges from 30 cents to $5 depending on the service and size of the package.

This latest surcharge is just one in a series of price hikes the USPS is instituting under postmaster general Louis DeJoy’s leadership. The federal government agency raised the price of stamps from 55 to 58 cents in August and hiked prices on regular mail 6.8%.

What’s behind this decision?

The USPS has been in financial trouble for years as Americans are sending less mail. The agency incurred losses of $87 billion between 2007 and 2020, and racked up $188 billion in unfunded liabilities and debt.

DeJoy, who was chosen by the Trump-appointed Postal Service Board of Governors in May of last year, has proposed a 10-year plan to make up for these losses by cutting costs, raising prices, and passing legislation in Congress that would end a mandate that the agency cover healthcare costs for employees ahead of retirement. The agency has previously cut employee pay to address its financial shortfalls, and slashing additional benefits could further jeopardize the appeal of a profession that was once seen as a reliable job.

While DeJoy’s efforts are already facing pushback from Democrats in Congress, the agency is moving forward with changes that don’t need approval from lawmakers in Washington. They’re likely to make mail delivery slower and more costly for many Americans in the coming months.

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