First-class stamps to cost 3 cents more in January
WASHINGTON — Mailing a letter is about to get more expensive.
Regulators on Tuesday approved a temporary price increase 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 the decrease in mail caused by the 2008 economic downturn.
Forever stamps, good for first-class postage whatever the rate, can be purchased at the lower price until the increase takes effect on Jan. 26.
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 Postal Regulatory Commission rejected a request to make the price increase 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.
Bulk mail, periodicals and package service rates will rise 6 percent, a decision that drew consternation from the mail industry. Its groups have opposed any price increase beyond the 1.7 percent rate of inflation, saying charities using mass mailings and bookstores competing with online retailer Amazon would be among those who suffer.
Greeting card companies also have criticized the plans.
“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 said her organization will consider appealing the decision before the U.S. Court of Appeals.
For consumers who have cut back on their use of mail for correspondence, the rate increase may have little impact on their pocketbooks.
“I don't know a whole lot of people who truly, with the exception of packages, really use snail mail anymore,” said Kristin Johnson, a Green Bay, Wis., resident who was shopping in downtown Anchorage, Alaska, while visiting relatives and friends. “It's just so rare that I actually mail anything at this point.”
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.
The service says it lost $5 billion in the last fiscal year and has been trying to get Congress to pass legislation to help with its financial woes, including an end to Saturday mail delivery and reduced payments on retiree health benefits.
The figures through Sept. 30 were actually an improvement for the agency from a $15.9 billion loss in 2012.
The post office has struggled for years with declining mail volume as a result of growing Internet use and a 2006 congressional requirement that it make annual $5.6 billion payments to cover expected health care costs for future retirees. It has defaulted on three of those payments.
The regulators Tuesday stopped short of making the price increases permanent, saying the Postal Service had conflated losses it suffered as a result of Internet competition with business lost because of the Great Recession. They ordered the agency to develop a plan to phase out the higher rates once the lost revenue is recouped.
It's unclear where that would take rates for first-class postage in 2016. The regular, inflation-adjusted price would have been 47 cents next year. If inflation rates average 2 percent over the next two years, regulators could deem 49 cents an acceptable price going forward.
The Postal Service has only twice lowered the price of a stamp: in the mid-19th century from 3 cents to 2 cents, and again after the end of World War I. In neither case was the higher price the result of a temporary authorization.
The new price of a postcard stamp, raised by a penny to 34 cents in November, also is effective next month.
The last price increase for stamps was in January, when the cost of sending a letter rose by a penny to 46 cents. A post card also increased by one cent to 33 cents.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Financial planning for disabled people a little-tapped field
- AT&T evolves beyond phones
- How to cover work history gaps
- Taxes matter in fund investing, even when there’s no bill
- This robot is cute, artificially intelligent and employed
- Keep pesky neighbors from stealing your Internet
- FAA: Cockpit email system reduces delays
- Drenching rains green pastures, bode well for cattle herd expansion in Great Plains
- Global businesses try to keep pace with fluctuations in value of dollar
- Developer hopes to make Allegheny Center a tech hub
- Pa. sees widespread job gains; jobless rate holds at 5.3%