WASHINGTON - The financially struggling U.S. Postal Service said Wednesday it will stop delivering mail on Saturdays but continue to disburse packages six days a week, an apparent end-run around an unaccommodating Congress.
The service expects the Saturday mail cutback to begin the week of Aug. 5 and to save about $2 billion annually, Postmaster General and CEO Patrick R. Donahoe said.
"Our financial condition is urgent," Donahoe told a press conference.
The cut will lead to some changes for customers that the Prescott and Prescott Valley post offices serve, said Matt Rhoades, who has been filling in as postmaster four four months and is leaving next week to work in Rancho Mirage, Calif.
"We do not have the details of personnel changes and how we will implement them," Rhoades said. "Those details will come from the postmaster general in a few months."
Rhoades said he does not know how much mail the Prescott and Prescott Valley post offices handle. However, he described Saturday as "an average day" and Monday as its busiest.
He said the jurisdictions serve 150 routes, including rural routes.
The move accentuates one of the agency's strong points - package delivery has increased by 14 percent since 2010, officials say, while the delivery of letters and other mail has declined with the increasing use of email and other Internet services.
Under the new plan, mail would be delivered to homes and businesses only from Monday through Friday, but would still be delivered to post office boxes on Saturdays. Post offices now open on Saturdays would remain open on Saturdays.
Over the past several years, the Postal Service has advocated shifting to a five-day delivery schedule for mail and packages - and it repeatedly but unsuccessfully appealed to Congress to approve the move. Though an independent agency, the service gets no tax dollars for its day-to-day operations but is subject to congressional control.
Congress has included a ban on five-day delivery in its appropriations bill. But because the federal government is now operating under a temporary spending measure, rather than an appropriations bill, Donahoe says it's the agency's interpretation that it can make the change itself.
"This is not like a 'gotcha' or anything like that," he said. The agency is essentially asking Congress not to reimpose the ban when the spending measure expires on March 27 and he said he would work with Congress on the issue.