Higher postal rates set for January but USPS continues to struggle

Postage increases will make their annual appearance in January as the struggling U.S. Postal Service picks targets for some hikes while leaving other mailers with a closer-to-inflation increase. USPS has seen a deteriorating financial picture all year, with Congress unable either to pass postal reform legislation or, until just weeks ago, even provide USPS with a governing board.
New rates go into effect Jan. 27, 2019.
For newspaper mailers, the biggest pain will generally be felt in First-Class mailing for invoices and bill payments, as the cost of a stamp goes up 5 cents. In newspaper distribution, saturation requester newspapers will see increases of 3 to 5 percent for most issues in the 3- to 5-ounce range while paid circulation newspapers using carrier route rates dropped at the post office will see increases around 1 percent.
For Marketing Mail (formerly third-class or standard mail), increases in the 2.4 percent to 3 percent range for High Density mail entered at the delivery unit are in the works, and saturation mail increases are in the 2.5 percent to 3.9 percent range. But for saturation mail entered at a Sectional Center Facility, the increases are nearly 8.5 percent. USPS is pushing more mail to delivery unit entry with its “pricing signals,” a trend that will draw objection from marriage mail and commercial bulk mailers.
For Outside County Periodicals mailers, increases overall are expected to be in the mid-2 percent range, but increases in charges for bundles and containers may push some mailers’ rates up more. The National Newspaper Association is continuing to analyze those impacts.
NNA postal guru Max Heath said the association was gratified that the mailing class most commonly used by local newspapers – the Within County delivery unit rates – would be modest, but he expressed concern about increases above inflation. He said guidance about the increase was coming late because of congressional delay in appointing a USPS governing board, which has played havoc with newspaper budgeting for 2019.
“NNA has been saying for a decade that Congress must address the worsening finances of USPS if it intends to keep universal delivery – which small towns in America critically need. We watch the USPS bottom line erode and the debt rise with great concern. This increase is fairly modest for many mailers, though tough for some, but we see a rising tide of red ink that will surely drive many mailers out of the system if Congress does not act,” Heath said. “We are also concerned about a perception in some areas that the Postal Service’s contracts with Amazon are at the root of this problem. They are not. USPS makes money on its package services. Our problems are grounded in continually rising USPS costs, some of which Congress unfairly imposed in 2006 and still has not addressed. NNA stands ready to work with any member of Congress who wants to fix this problem and preserve the essential services that rural America needs.”
Heath said NNA would participate in a review of the rates before the Postal Regulatory Commission. Under modern postal law, however, USPS does not need the PRC’s sign-off before rates go into effect.

(National Newspaper Association postal news)