WASHINGTON - Buy those Forever stamps now. The cost of mailing a letter is going up again.
Fighting to survive a deepening financial crisis, the Postal Service said Tuesday it wants to increase the price of first-class stamps by 2 cents - to 46 cents - starting in January. Other postage costs would rise as well.
The agency's persisting problem: ever-declining mail volume as people and businesses shift to the Internet and the declining economy reduces advertising mail.
"The Postal Service faces a serious risk of financial insolvency," postal vice president Stephen M. Kearney said.
The post office lost $3.8 billion last year, despite cutting 40,000 full-time positions and making other reductions, and Kearney said it is facing a $7 billion loss for this year and the same for fiscal 2011, which begins in October. The rate increase would bring in $2.5 billion, meaning there still would be a large loss for next year.
The post office, though part of the government, does not receive a tax subsidy for its operations.
While the cost of a first-class stamp would go up, people who bought Forever stamps at the current 44 cents or at lower prices would still be able to use them without paying the difference.
Under the proposed increases, in addition to the 46-cent rate for the first ounce, the cost for each additional ounce would go up a penny to 18 cents. The cost to mail a postcard would go up 2 cents to 30 cents.
The price to send periodicals would go up about 8 percent, and other rates for advertising mail, parcels and services would rise by varying amounts.
Besides the first-class increase, postage costs would rise an average of 5 percent.
The rate increases proposed Tuesday now go to the independent Postal Regulatory Commission, which has 90 days to respond. If approved, the new prices would take effect Jan. 2, Kearney said.
July 6, 2010: Postal Service requests 2-cent increase, to 46 cents
May 2009: 2-cent increase, to 44 cents
May 2008: 1 cent increase, to 42 cents
May 2007: 2-cent increase, to 41 cents
January 2006: 2-cent increase, to 39 cents