By C.N. Staff Writer
The day before Christmas, the independent Postal Regulatory Commission agreed to temporarily raise the price of first-class postage stamps. The Associated Press reports that the Postal Service will increase stamps by 3-cents, which will now bring the cost of a first-class stamp to 49 cents and will take effect January 26, 2014. That means you will be paying 49 cents instead of the 46 cents you just paid to mail your 2013 Christmas cards.
Regulators say the increase is an attempt to recoup loses from the 2008 economic downturn, which saw the postal industry lose about 2.8 billion in revenue. Commission Chairman Ruth Y. Goldway has said the price hike, “will last just long enough to recover the loss” and is only instituted for two years.
However, there is no ruling on whether the rates for first-class postage will return to 46 cents after the two years are up, or if the Postal Service will keep the 49 cents longer to account for inflation. Therefore, in 2016 first-class stamps might be 46 cents or remain at 49 cents. Since this is a temporary rate, it might be at a level that takes future inflation into account.
Bulk mail, periodicals and package service rates will rise 6 percent. The Postal Service has said the increase is their attempt to also recover losses from severe mail decreases. Forever stamps can be used for first-class postage no matter how high the postage will go.
The post office has struggled for years with declining mail volume as a result of growing Internet use and a 2006 congressional requirement that it make annual $5.6 billion payments to cover expected health care costs for future retirees. It has defaulted on three of those payments.
The Postal Service has only twice lowered the price of a stamp: in the mid-19th century from 3 cents to 2 cents, and again after the end of World War I. In neither case was the higher price the result of a temporary authorization. The new price of a postcard stamp, raised by a penny to 34 cents in November, also is effective next month. The last price increase for stamps was in January, when the cost of sending a letter rose by a penny to 46 cents. A post card also increased by one cent to 33 cents.