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The cost of mail in the U.S.: Third postage increase in a year starts Sunday

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For the third time in 12 months, the United States Postal Service will raise the price of stamps.

In January, the price went from 60 cents to 63 cents. This Sunday, it will become 66 cents per stamp.

The USPS cites rising operating costs caused by inflation and the impacts of “a previously defective pricing model,” according to the Associated Press.

Sunday’s increase will be the fifth since early 2019 when postage was 50 cents. The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ CPI inflation calculator reads that 50 cents in 2019 adjusted for inflation is 60 cents in 2023.

USPS’s operating revenue was $21.5 billion in the first quarter of 2023, $206 million more than a year ago although mail volume declined by 1.7 billion pieces, or 4.8 percent. USPS reported a net loss of $1 billion for the first quarter, but it was a $519 million improvement from the $1.5 billion loss experienced a year ago.

Keep US Posted, a nonprofit advocacy group of consumers, nonprofits,  newspapers, greeting card publishers, magazines, catalogs and small businesses, warns that the stamp price increase on July 9, 2023 is an indication that if postage increases continue, a government bailout of the USPS will be necessary.

“If you don’t have Forever stamps, now is a good time to stock up,” said Keep US Posted Executive Director and former Congressman Kevin Yoder of Kansas. “With three unprecedented postage hikes in 12 months, USPS has kicked off runaway ‘stampflation’ like the U.S. has never seen, and it’s making the situation worse. Each time stamp prices go up, mail volume goes down at an even faster pace than projected, and meanwhile, USPS faces more internal costs updating its system to implement each postage increase. For example, after January’s rate increase went into effect, mail volume immediately decreased nearly 9 percent year-over-year, while expenses increased by 16 percent.”

Postmaster General Louis DeJoy’s intent has been to use stamp increases to provide additional revenue, according to Yoder. However, each increase results in a decrease of mail demand and lost USPS revenue.

“The result is additional strain on the system. Congress passed bipartisan postal reform in 2022 intending to prevent these excessive postage increases by bringing financial solvency to the Postal Service but USPS, under DeJoy’s leadership, has plowed ahead with pre-planned stamp increases, which will continue every six months. The American people need Congress to step in now and bring additional oversight to the USPS rate strategy, otherwise we could be looking at a situation where a federal bailout is necessary,” Yoder said.

His suggestion is that Congress direct the Postal Regulatory Commission to look at the impact of postage increases “and take up the many pending petitions to review the rate-setting system to account for the impact of the postal reform legislation meant to prevent excessive rate increases. Given the increasing and alarming volume losses that are occurring, our country cannot afford to turn a blind eye to the impact of these increases.”

USPS plans to continue increasing postage rates twice per year.

 

 

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca J. Barnabi is the national editor of Augusta Free Press. A graduate of the University of Mary Washington, she began her journalism career at The Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star. In 2013, she was awarded first place for feature writing in the Maryland, Delaware, District of Columbia Awards Program, and was honored by the Virginia School Boards Association’s 2019 Media Honor Roll Program for her coverage of Waynesboro Schools. Her background in newspapers includes writing about features, local government, education and the arts.