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Postmaster General has Alaska Bypass Mail in cost-cutting sights

Postmaster General Louis DeJoy testified before a Senate committee Friday.
Postmaster General Louis DeJoy testified before a Senate committee Friday.
Published: Aug. 21, 2020 at 1:44 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Alaska's Bypass Mail system is in the sights of the U.S. Postmaster General as he works to cut costs for the U.S. Postal Service.

In a hearing before the Senate Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs Committee Friday morning, Louis DeJoy said the service is an unfunded mandate.

When pressed on whether reducing postal hours, removing collection boxes and shutting down sorting machines -- all actions taken recently to reduce costs, but stopped until at least after the election -- would resume after the presidential election, DeJoy raised Alaska Bypass Mail as one of many options to find cuts.

“The plan has not been finalized. We have hundreds of initiatives we like, like take the Alaska bypass plan discussion. That’s an item on the table,” DeJoy told Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., in response to his question.

“That’s an unfunded mandate. It costs us like $500 million a year. What I asked for is all the unfunded mandates, right? That’s a way for us to get healthy. Pay something for the unfunded mandates.”

DeJoy then suggested changing legislation so it would not require the USPS to be self-sustaining.

In past years, the operation of the Alaska bypass mail system has been pegged at about $100 million a year, with nearly three-fourths of it coming at a loss to the Postal Service.

The service allows bulk goods to be shipped from Alaska’s population centers to rural areas on local airlines, bypassing the postal service altogether, though the postal service pays for its operation.

Alaska’s Congressional Delegation issued a joint statement Friday afternoon, vehemently defending the service.

“We must be clear: the USPS is a vital lifeline to countless Alaskans, from our population centers to the farthest reaches of our vast state,” the joint statement from Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan, Republicans, and Rep. Don Young, Republican, began. “Throughout the years, the Alaska delegation has defended mail delivery to rural Alaska. We’ve done it before and we’ll do it again. Simply put, the bypass mail program saves the Postal Service money, and fulfills the USPS’ Universal Service requirement.”

Challengers to two of Alaska's three representatives in Washington also issued statements.

“I am alarmed by new reports revealing that the Postmaster-General plans to specifically target Alaskans by raising prices for our mail,” said Alyse Galvin, an Independent candidate challenging Rep. Don Young. “The postal service is an essential lifeline to Alaskans, delivering groceries, medicine, and goods across the state. It is critical to our way of life in Alaska.”

Al Gross, also an Independent, challenging Sen. Dan Sullivan, called DeJoy’s statements “deeply troubling.”

“Like our national defense, interstate highways or public schools, the Postal Service provides an essential service to Alaskans,” Gross wrote. “To demolish this service at any time, let alone in the midst of this pandemic, is unconscionable. Let us not mince words: it must be stopped.”

DeJoy is scheduled to testify before the House committee on oversight and reform on Monday.

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