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Postal plan calls for more mail delays

WASHINGTON -- Already mocked by some as "snail mail," first-class U.S. mail will slow even more by next spring under plans by the cash-strapped U.S. Postal Service to eliminate more than 250 processing centers.

Nearly 30,000 workers would be laid off as the post office struggles to respond to a shift to online communication and bill payments. The cuts are part of $3 billion in reductions aimed at helping the agency avert bankruptcy next year. They would virtually eliminate the chance for stamped letters to arrive the next day, a change in delivery standards that have been in place since 1971.

The plan technically must await an advisory opinion from the independent Postal Regulatory Commission, due in March, an opinion that is nonbinding.

At a news briefing, postal vice president David Williams said the post office needs to move quickly to cut costs amid steadily declining mail volume..

The agency already has announced a 1-cent increase in first-class mail, to 45 cents beginning Jan. 22.

Williams said in certain narrow situations first-class mail might still be delivered the next day -- if, for example, newspapers, magazines or other bulk mailers are able to meet new, tighter deadlines and drop off shipments directly at the processing centers that remain open. But in the vast majority of cases, users of first-class mail will see delays.

"Are we writing off first class mail? No," Williams said. "Customers are making their choices, and what we are doing is responding to the current market conditions and placing the Postal Service on a path to allow us to respond to future changes."

The changes in first-class mail delivery could go into place without permission from Congress. -- AP

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