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Officials react to USPS announcement

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Beginning Aug. 1, the United States Postal Service will no longer deliver mail on Saturdays.

The announcement came Feb. 6 and further highlights the agency's budgetary struggles. According to a news release from the USPS, the agency expects to save $2 billion annually by cutting mail delivery to five days a week.

The USPS will continue to deliver packages on Saturdays, however.

USPS Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe said agency officials are reacting to the change in mail habits.

"The Postal Service is advancing an important new approach to delivery that reflects the strong growth of our package business and responds to financial realities resulting from America's changing mailing habits," he said in the news release. "We developed this approach by working with our customers to understand their delivery needs and by identifying creative ways to generate cost savings."

Opponents of the change argue the end of Saturday mail delivery may come at a cost to customers, especially seniors. However, Tom Hunter, associate state director of AARP West Virginia, said mail-order prescriptions among seniors has decreased and won't be affected by the change.

"Mail-order prescriptions have decreased dramatically since 2006 an no longer have the price advantage that mail order pharmacies previously enjoyed, primarily due to Medicare Part D an state law prohibitions on bulk order insurers once required and increased local pharmacy competition," Hunter said. "Moreover, there is no evidence that overnight delivery of ‘life-saving' drug orders would be affected by elimination of one day of mail delivery, whether on a weekday or weekend."

However, some members of West Virginia's congressional delegation say they're disappointed with the change. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., said the Postal Service is often the lifeline for small, rural communities across the country.

"Although the Postal Service must cut back on spending and get its fiscal house in order, cutting the muscle instead of the fat from its budget will not benefit the agency and will harm our communities in West Virginia and across our country," he said in a statement.

Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., agreed that the USPS needs to trim its budget, but without affecting mail delivery. Last March, Rockefeller wrote Donahoe, outlining ways he thought the USPS could save money. Suggestions included cost containment, revising employee health and retirement plans and asking the USPS to identify ways it would renegotiate or modify possible layoffs.

Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., has been vocal in his support of rural post offices. He said he wants to see the USPS abide by the law.

"The Postal Service cannot circumvent the will of the Congress, which has been explicit in requiring the continuance of six-day mail delivery service for the last 30 years," he said in a statement. "Whatever basis the Postal Service is claiming to discontinue Saturday mail delivery, it runs counter to the spirit and letter of the law, and I intend to press hard to ensure that the Postal Service abides by the law. The Postal Service needs to look at other ways to balance its books rather than cutting off rural customers and undermining its public service obligations."

But Donahoe said the public understands why the Postal Service had to make this decision.

"The American public understands the financial challenges of the Postal Service and supports these steps as a responsible and reasonable approach to improving our financial situation," he said. "The Postal Service has a responsibility to take the steps necessary to return to long-term financial stability and ensure the continued affordability of the U.S. mail."