Americans who have been frustrated with the slow service of the U.S. Postal Service since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic probably won’t be thrilled to hear this:
The service is about to get even slower.
Starting Friday, USPS will “implement new service standards for First Class Mail and Periodicals,” Kim Frum, a spokeswoman for USPS, said in an email to USA TODAY.
The changes mean an increased time-in-transit for mail traveling long distances, such as from New York to California. Frum said that “most first class mail (61%) and periodicals (93%) will be unaffected” by the changes. Single-piece first-class mail traveling within the same region will still have a delivery time of two days.
USPS defines first-class mail as “standard sized letters and flats,” Frum said. That’s different from first-class packages, which are typically used for shipping smaller, lightweight packages. Currently, first-class mail and first-class packages have the same delivery standards, but that will change beginning Friday.
The changes to service standard times are part of USPS’s 10-year strategic plan, announced by Postmaster General Louis DeJoy in March. The plan has drawn heavy criticism from elected officials.
DeJoy took his position in June 2020 despite no previous experience in the USPS. The position of Postmaster General is not appointed or nominated by a president, but rather appointed by the independent Postal Service Board of Governors.
The USPS has been riddled by financial problems for years and the ongoing COVID-19 crisis has only worsened the situation.
By making this change, Frum said, “The Postal Service can entrust its ground network to deliver more First-Class Mail, which will lead to great consistency, reliability and efficiency that benefits its customers … whether it’s 300 miles or 3,000 miles, the current standard for [First Class Packages] require 3-day service for any destination within the contiguous U.S. with a drive time greater than six hours. This is unattainable and forces us to rely on air transportation, yielding unreliable service. With this change, we will improve service reliability and predictability for customers while also driving efficiencies across the Postal Service network.”
Additionally, starting Oct. 3 through Dec. 26, the USPS will temporarily increase prices on all commercial and retail domestic packages due to the holiday season and anticipated uptick in mail volume. Those price increases will not affect international products, Frum said.