The walk to the mailbox could get longer as Congress debates a new bill that would cancel door-to-door mail delivery.
As of now, Americans moving into newly built homes have to go elsewhere to receive their mail rather than receiving it at their front doors.
Under a cost-saving plan by the U.S. Postal Service — now in place for new subdivisions — mail is delivered to neighborhood cluster boxes or curbside instead of by door-to-door delivery. With cluster boxes, mailboxes for individual addresses are grouped together at a central neighborhood location.
A bill under consideration by the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform would require all mail to be delivered based upon the Postal Service plan.
Some Brownsville residents have mixed feelings about the present plan and proposed bill. They voiced concerns over safety and whether the budget savings of the plan would outweigh safety.
“I don’t think it’s safe for our mail. It shouldn’t be done,” Brownsville resident Dahlia Muñiz said while visiting the Brownsville Post Office on Los Ebanos Boulevard. “Perhaps it’ll save money but I still don’t think it’s safe.”
Reta Pheifer, another resident who was also at the Brownsville Post Office, agrees with Muñiz.
“I don’t think it’s a good idea. It’s going to compromise safety,” Pheifer said. “We already have people stealing from our mailboxes, what about these cluster boxes?”
However, at least one resident sees merit in the plan.
Another Brownsville resident, who declined to be named, said the plan economically deserves a try.
“I think it’s easier with individual mailboxes but if it is going to save money, it’s worth it,” the resident said.
U.S. Rep. Darrel Issa, R-Calif., introduced the bill that will do away with door-to-door delivery, with an exemption for people with disabilities.
“A balanced approach to saving the Postal Service means allowing USPS to adapt to America’s changing use of mail,” Issa said. “Done right, these reforms can improve the customer experience through a more efficient Postal Service.”
However, Rep. Steve Lynch, D-Mass., says the plan will not work and be more harmful than helpful in densely populated neighborhoods.
“You’d have to knock houses down in my neighborhood to build cluster boxes,” Lynch said. “This will not work.”
According to lawmakers, this bill could produce annual savings of $4 billion from switching to curbside and $6 billion from cluster boxes.
The Postal Service sees the current plan as a way to save financially, as door-to-door delivery costs the Postal Service about $323 per address each year.
While mail deliveries to private residences will be affected either way, so will service to businesses.
The Postal Service plans to implement a program to convert existing business addresses receiving door delivery to centralized delivery. If centralized delivery is not possible for a business, curbside delivery will be used instead.
Some businesses like the Greeting Card Association support the switch to a cluster box system. Others like the National Association of Letter Carriers and the American Postal Workers Union oppose it.
Sally Davidow, spokeswoman for APWU, said that moving to cluster delivery would put the Postal Service at a competitive disadvantage versus its main competitors that provide door-to-door deliveries, such as FedEx and UPS Inc.
Maria Hall-Joiner, interim president at the Brownsville Chamber of Commerce, shared her view about how Postal Service delivery change could affect businesses.
“This is especially going to be an inconvenience for small businesses. They’re going to have to take time to send employees to receive mail and force them to do more,” Hall-Joiner said. “There’s always the risk of safety depending on where these boxes are as well.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.