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Editorial: Postal Service rate increases called punitive by National Newspaper group

The proposed Jan. 21, 2024, postage increase for community newspapers is nearly four times the rate increase proposed for other users of the mail.  In an announcement last Friday, the United States Postal Service announced it expected a 7.3 percent increase for the local Within County mailing rate for newspapers.

USPS is permitted to increase rates without direct approval by the Postal Regulatory Commission, although the PRC is required to review the proposed rates for illegalities and calculation errors.  The increase is intended as the first half of a semi-annual increase and to go into effect January 21, 2024.

National Newspaper Association Chair John Galer, publisher of The Journal-News in Hillsboro, Illinois, said the dramatic rate increase for local newspapers was a shock.

“It certainly seems as if the Postal Service wants to discourage newspapers from using the mail. At a time when local journalism is already in peril and more newspapers are using the mail to reach subscribers, this increase is simply punitive,” Galer said. “We expect both our subscribers and other stakeholders in our community to push back at the subscription increases that will be made necessary by the Postal Service’s action.”

Ironically, the Postal Service’s principal justification for the steep increase is that the PRC now requires USPS to share more of the savings created when publishers do some of the work that postal workers would otherwise have to do, such as presorting the mail and transporting it to destination post offices. Traditionally, USPS has shared far less than 100 percent of the savings when it passes along mail discounts. But because PRC is pushing the postal system to be more generous in sharing the savings, USPS is simply raising the basic rate so it can show a more acceptable discount.

“Raising our prices so it can claim it is creating a fair discount is the sort of math we associate with shady deals,” Galer said. “Our industry has been doing a lot of mail preparation work for years to help keep postal costs down. For us to now be punished for that work simply adds outrage to our disappointment.”

The Postal Service is now guided by the Delivering For America plan introduced by Postmaster General Louis DeJoy to help the Postal Service compete for the package and parcel business. Twice-a-year postage increases have been part of the DFA plan, which allows USPS to raise rates to the fullest extent allowed above inflation.

“Between the Ely Echo, North Country Saver and the Babbitt Weekly we spend over $1,500 every week for postage,” said Echo and Babbitt Weekly publisher Nick Wognum. “Times are tough already and this increase will only make things worse.”

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