The US Postal Service (USPS) is in financial trouble. The decline in mail volumes has accelerated in the last year. At the same time, the USPS is losing market share in the package shipping market. Aging facilities and vehicles hamper efficiencies. Congress appropriated billions for electric vehicles and charging stations, but that will only cover a small percentage of the investment needed.
The response from the USPS is to raise rates – aggressively. The current plan is to raise rates twice a year, in January and July. The January rate increase will be based on the Consumer Price Index (CPI-U) and the July increase will be CPI-U plus factors for mail density and retirement payments. This tactic is driving down mail volumes at the fastest rate since the Great Recession.
The specter of a taxpayer bailout isn’t as outrageous as it may have seemed just a year ago. Congress probably won’t act until there’s a crisis, so don’t expect any bills to be drafted in the immediate future. And representatives from both sides of the aisle would require radical restructuring as part of any payment deal. Maybe even return the Postmaster General position to a Cabinet-level appointment?
There’s a third way. Even with electronic payments on the rise, billions of dollars flow through the mail in the form of checks. Billions of invoices, catalogs and advertisements make their way through the USPS network every year. Business and the public alike trust the USPS to fulfill their paper correspondence and payments.
Why not add electronic correspondence to the mix?
Every day, our spam filters work overtime to separate the fraudulent and unwanted emails from our in-box. Malware software adds an extra layer of security in the fight against viruses sent by malicious entities. It’s a never-ending battle.
Unfortunately, sometimes legitimate emails are unintended casualties of the protectors. Every week, I find emails from customers in the spam folder. Conversely, I receive reports that my emails to clients and prospects have been bounced by their firewalls. Neither is a good result.
What if there was a universal email authentication program? Emails that passed through a “certified” server would receive an electronic “stamp” recognized by inbound email servers. Companies sending statements, government sending notices, and customers requesting account information would see their messages get through.
There are over 376 billion emails sent a day. If just one-tenth of one percent would benefit from being certified, that’s 376 million emails. Charging a half a penny for the process would net over $680 million per year.
The USPS can build upon its reputation as the most trusted government entity and fill this gap.
Today, the USPS has over 39 million households registered in the Informed Delivery program. Over 46 million people are signed up to receive email notifications from the USPS.
Registered email users that are verified by the USPS. Anti-virus and malware software already programmed to recognize the USPS servers. Why not launch a trial program?
Opponents of this idea will point out that the USPS is forbidden by law to offer “non-postal products and services”. But there is an exception. The Postal Reform Act of 2022 allows the USPS to offer non-postal products and services for government agencies – from federal to state to tribal to local.
And these agencies are trying to convert more of their communications to electronic. Yet they often struggle to compete with hackers spoofing their emails. A “USPS Certified Email” stamp could be the answer to the problem. At the same time, the USPS could prove a concept that would gain supporters as it proved successful. Supporters wo could lobby for changes in the law.
The USPS is in a precarious financial position. Current leadership is focused on cutting expenses and gaining revenues through delivering packages. Expanding their digital footprint with “certified email” may provide an added boost towards a sustainable postal service.