By Kyle LoJacono
In an attempt to help reduce its $15 billion debt, the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) will increase postage costs beginning Jan. 22.
The new rate to mail standard first-class, 1-ounce letters will jump by one penny, up to 45 cents per item. The cost to send a postcard will swell by 3 cents to a total of 32.
The biggest increase comes to those who send 1-ounce letters internationally. Such mail bound to Mexico or Canada will cost an extra nickel, up to 85 cents. The same item sent to other countries will be 7 cents more expensive to a total of $1.05.
“The overall average price increase is small and is needed to help address our current financial crisis,” U.S. Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe wrote in an email.
Donahoe pointed out that the rates for sending such items have not been increased in 2 1/2 years. He added more people using email versus mail has reduced the revenue generated by USPS. Forever stamps will continue al that is needed to mail a 1-ounce letter within the United States even if purchased at a lower rate.
“The stark reality is that the USPS’ business model is broken,” Donahoe wrote. He added the postal service needs a “more flexible business model,” such as cutting service to five days a week, closing post office locations and reducing its workforce.
USPS is looking for ways to stay economically viable, but many local people say raising postage rates is not the answer.
“It used to be 20 cents to send a letter when I was a kid,” said Land O’ Lakes resident Thomas Rodriguez. “I would send letters to my grandparents who lived in New York and aunts and uncles in other states every week or every other week. Now it would cost a small fortune to do that.”
Lutz resident Mark Brown said the price of postage also has turned him away from the postal service.
“I’ve already stopped mailing basically anything because of how much it costs,” Brown said. “Sending something just downtown costs way more than it should. I’d rather drive and drop off a letter if I can’t email it.”
Brown suggested USPS could come up with a tiered system, where mailing locally would require less postage than sending items to the opposite coast.
New Tampa resident Christy Smith-Rodgers said Brown’s idea did have some merit.
“It’s got to take less money for them to take a letter to Tampa than to Oregon,” Smith-Rodgers said. “That’s only 20-30 minutes from here . … I’m sure it’s not as simple as that or they would do it, but I think it’s worth looking at.”
Smith-Rodgers said she also does not mail many items anymore because of the cost. She cannot remember the last time she sent someone a letter.
“If I have to send a package I send it with FedEx because it gets there faster,” Smith-Rodgers said. “If I’m going to pay to send a box I want it to get there fast.”
All three said they would rather have the USPS end Saturday delivery instead of increasing rates.
“I’d be fine with that,” Rodriguez said. “Most businesses work Monday through Friday, so if they are having problems with money than they should cut a day off. That’s better than making us pay more for mail.”
None favored closing post offices.
“I think that would also make more people use the post office less,” Brown said. “I mean if the post office near you closes, then I don’t think you’d mail things more often.”
For more information on USPS, visit www.usps.com.