Nightly News   |  February 06, 2013

USPS ends Saturday mail delivery

In an effort to stem financial hemorrhaging of $36 million a day, the U.S. Post Office is now ending first-class mail delivery on Saturdays. Packages, mail-order medicine and express mail will continue to be delivered.  NBC’s Tom Costello reports.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> all-electronic web-based life, today's news maybe wasn't all that impactful. but for the folks with mailboxes in cities and towns across this country on dirt roads or in apartment buildings, there's always been mail on saturday. six days a week, since the time of abraham lincoln . but today the u.s. postal service says delivering the mail on saturdays must stop. if they are to survive. it's one of two american institutions in the news tonight for differing reasons in changing times . we want to begin tonight with nbc's tom costello in glen echo , maryland. tom, good evening.

>> reporter: hi, brian, no secret the postal service is up to its neck in red ink , handling 30 billion fewer pieces of first class mail today than just four years ago. and guess what? delivery of packages booming because we're all buying stuff online. this action is about just trying to keep the lights on. for people all over america, like 71-year-old lois sexton in tennessee, that mailbox at the end of the driveway has been a reliable connection to the rest of the world .

>> that's my communication with the people i have my retirement with, my social security .

>> reporter: since 1863 , six days a week, rain or shine , letters, bills, government checks, newspapers, even movies, have arrived, even on saturday. now the 21st century with its e-mail, e-cards and e-pay, has come knocking.

>> we cannot put our head in the sand and say, geez, let's hope this problem goes away. hope is not a strategy.

>> reporter: calling the financial situation urgent, the postmaster general today announced that starting in early august, six-day service would go to five. saturday mail delivery would end, but packages of all size would still be delivered on saturday, including medicines. post offices would remain open, and post office boxes would still receive mail.

>> we have a small business . so, you know, a lot of our packages and first class mail does come on saturdays.

>> i think they should have done it a long time ago.

>> they are making a difficult decision for their survivability.

>> it is all about surviving. the postal service hopes the cuts will help it save some $2 billion annually after losing nearly $16 billion last year. of that, $11 billion went to fund future retiree medical benefits, something that is required of no other government agency .

>> it's time to provide postal reform. the postal service is bleeding red ink .

>> reporter: but for years, the service has failed to act. now the postmaster general is using a loophole in the current stopgap funding measure to act on his own.

>> i'm concerned that this decision has been taken out of the hands of the congress.

>> facing economic realities by the post office is the first step toward delivering a 21st-century product.

>> reporter: at the crossroads of tradition, history and technology. the letter carriers ' union, as well as some businesses, don't like this plan, but the postal service says that's already cut 28% of its work force , 200 mail processing centers, and 21,000 routes over the last few years. it's not enough. brian?

>> tom costello, starting us off in glen echo , maryland tonight.