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House committee approves bill that would end door-to-door mail for 15 million people

A House committee has approved a proposal that would end door-to-door mail delivery for millions of Americans in favor of communal or curbside boxes.

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee approved the measure on an 18-13 party-line vote Wednesday. The bill would direct the U.S. Postal Service to convert 15 million addresses over the next decade to the less costly, but also less convenient delivery method.

Democrats objected to the plan, and efforts in recent years to win its adoption have failed.

“I think it’s a lousy idea,” Rep. Stephen Lynch, D-Mass., told the Associated Press. Other lawmakers said it wouldn’t work in urban areas where there’s no place on city streets to put banks of “cluster boxes” with separate compartments for each address. People with disabilities who have difficulty leaving their homes could get waivers, and people who still want delivery to their door could pay extra for it — something Lynch derided as “a delivery tax.”

The committee’s chairman, Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., acknowledged that the measure is far from the comprehensive overhaul most officials agree is needed to solve the postal service’s financial problems, but said it “provides an interim opportunity to achieve some significant cost savings.”

Converting to communal or curbside delivery would save $2 billion annually, Issa said, quoting from estimates that door delivery costs $380 annually per address compared with $240 for curbside and $170 for centralized methods. He said less than 1 percent of all addresses nationwide would undergo a delivery change annually and that communal boxes offer a safe, locked location for packages, doing away with the need for carriers to leave packages on porches, making them subject to theft and bad weather.

The Postal Service reported a $1.9 billion loss for the first three months this year despite continued cost-cutting, a 2.3 percent rise in operating revenue and increased employee productivity. Package business has risen but the service continues to struggle with inflationary cost increases and a continued decline in first-class mailing as people move to the Internet for letter writing and bill paying.

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