January 29, 2014 | 09:22 AM
Citing the continued financial struggles of the U.S. Postal Service, officials hiked the cost of stamps Sunday three cents to 49 cents per stamp, its largest increase in 11 years. The postal service reported a loss of $5 billion last year.
It will not be a permanent change, but only in effect for 24 months, the time postal regulators determined it would take the postal service to recover recession-related losses.
The postal service's justification for the hike was that it handled 53 billion fewer pieces of mail because of the Great Recession. The regulatory commission, however, disagreed and said the continued use of online services was to blame.
The Postal Regulatory Commission approved the 6.5 percent raise, more than triple today's inflation, last month, causing a coalition of mail-industry organizations, including an industry representing bulk mailers, to challenge the change in court. Postage costs have been capped by the rate of inflation for years.
"We cannot avoid the fact the postal service is operating in a new world," Robert M. Williams Jr., National Newspaper Association president, said. "We all are. The longer the postal service and lawmakers avoid reducing core costs for the delivery network, the more pain will be inflicted upon all who use the mail. Fewer and fewer customers will be paying more and more. This approved postage increase solves nothing."
The postal service, which sought a permanent increase to begin with, is asking the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to stop the higher price from being phased out in two years.
The postal service previously raised the cost of a stamp by one cent for each of the past three years.
The cost of a postcard is now 34 cents; a first-class additional-ounce stamp, 21 cents; a first-class two-ounce stamp, 70 cents; a first-class three-ounce stamp, 91 cents; and a Priority Mail Express flat-rate stamp, $19.99.
The increases will bring in a projected $2.8 billion to the USPS, which is small compared to a total revenue projection of $68 billion.