Just in time for Christmas, the United States Post Office delivers, but this package you may not want receive. Regulators on Tuesday approved a temporary price hike of 3 cents for a first-class stamp, bringing the charge to 49 cents a letter in an effort to help the Postal Service recover from severe mail decreases brought on by the 2008 economic downturn.
The increase may take some time to truly sink in, however, and that is only half of the good news. The increase does not take effect till January 26, which mean you have plenty of time to purchase Forever stamps. The Forever stamps are available for the current lower price of 46 cents, but can be used in the future, no matter the cost of stamps. The other piece of good news is that the increase is not permanent, at least for now.
The higher rate will last no more than two years, allowing the Postal Service to recoup $2.8 billion in losses. By a 2-1 vote, the independent Postal Regulatory Commission rejected a request to make the price hike permanent, though inflation over the next 24 months may make it so.
The surcharge “will last just long enough to recover the loss,” Commission Chairman Ruth Y. Goldway said.
Your Christmas cards and letters to grandma will not be the only product that get a price increase. Bulk mail, periodicals and package service rates will rise 6 percent, much to the dismay of the mail industry. Many felt that any increase beyond the 1.7 percent for inflation would ultimately hurt the postal service.
“This is a counterproductive decision,” said Mary G. Berner, president of the Association of Magazine Media. “It will drive more customers away from using the Postal Service and will have ripple effects through our economy – hurting consumers, forcing layoffs and impacting businesses.” Berner went on to say that her organization may appeal the decision in court.
The Postal Service is an independent agency that does not depend on tax money for its operations but is subject to congressional control. Under federal law, it can’t raise prices more than the rate of inflation without approval from the commission.