Following weeks of cutbacks and delayed mail delivery, the U.S. Postal Service is about to raise rates.
The temporary increase will affect commercial packages like the ones COVID-19 shut-ins are getting online shopping. It will begin Oct. 18 and last through the winter holiday shopping season until Dec. 27, the U.S. Postal Service said in a statement Friday.
Prices will rise on commercial domestic competitive parcels sent via USPS services such as Priority Mail Express, Priority Mail and First-Class Package Service. The hikes will take advantage of “heightened demand for online shopping package volume due to the coronavirus pandemic and expected holiday ecommerce,” the statement said.
The price hikes, targeting commercial deliveries, likely will be passed on to consumers.
The increase adds to a string of moves by President Donald Trump and his allies to cripple America’s mail service ahead of the November election, when vast numbers of people will vote by mail because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Democrats have called the actions deliberate sabotage by Trump and his handpicked Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, a prominent contributor to Trump’s campaign. Trump has said he believes mail-in voting benefits Democrat Joe Biden.
DeJoy last month announced a halt to overtime pay for letter carriers and a new limit on hours when mail can be delivered.
Last week, the USPS began ripping up scores of mailboxes and removed automated mail-sorting machines that speeded processing and delivery. After an avalanche of criticism, the agency agreed to hold off on removing the mailboxes until after the election.
Cost-cutting moves are already delaying mail delivery by as much as a week, according to The Washington Post.
Some states, meanwhile, are anticipating 10 times the normal volume of election mail as voters seek to avoid the risk of contracting COVID-19 at polling stations. The USPS last week warned 46 states that mail delivery may be so slow that mail-in ballots might not be delivered in enough time to count.
The USPS defended its upcoming rate increase by noting that it “receives no tax dollars for operating expenses, and relies on the sale of postage, products and services to fund its operations.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Sunday that the chamber will return from its vacation early to vote on legislation aimed at limiting changes to the USPS ahead of the election. DeJoy has been called to testify Aug. 24 at an emergency session of the House Oversight Committee.