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A Bill

Cutting Back Mail Delivery

H.R. 4670 Secure Delivery for America Act of 2014

The Essentials

1. For three years, Representative Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) has tried to sell his colleagues on a comprehensive postal reform bill. His rescue plan for the money-losing U.S. Postal Service includes ending Saturday letter delivery, closing some post offices, and consolidating the agency’s sprawling distribution network. Norway and other European countries have done some of these things with success, but Issa hasn’t won bipartisan support for an overhaul, which postal unions oppose.


2. Now he’s scaled back his ambitions. On May 21, Issa’s Committee on Oversight and Government Reform approved the Secure Delivery for America Act of 2014. It would eliminate door-to-door delivery by letter carriers on foot for 15 million to-be-decided addresses, replacing it with “centralized delivery” to cluster boxes, each of which serves many residents, or curbside mailboxes reachable by mail trucks. Issa says doing so would save the USPS $2 billion a year.


3. The USPS estimates that providing a single address with door delivery costs $380 a year. Curbside delivery to the same address would cost $240 and cluster boxes $170. The bill phases in slowly, converting 1.5 million addresses a year over a decade. Postal worker unions denounced the idea, which would mean fewer letter carriers, as extreme. But it’s not especially radical. Canada is already reducing door-to-door delivery, and President Obama has endorsed a similar plan.

Leonard is a staff writer for Bloomberg Businessweek in New York.

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