Congress US Postal Service (copy)

U.S. Postal Service Postmaster General Louis DeJoy’s reforms to the Postal Service have drawn rebukes from government officials. Eagle Columnist Clarence Fanto breaks down coming policy changes from the USPS.

LENOX — Don’t laugh, but one of the day’s highlights for me is the arrival of the U.S. Postal Service truck (often past 5 or even 6 in the evening lately). Not that I enjoy getting bills or junk marketing, but because there can be pleasant surprises in the mailbox.

These include a paycheck, favorite magazines, the weekly newspaper from Mount Desert Island in Maine (the only place I’ve ever considered for a second home since moving to the Berkshires), an eagerly awaited Amazon package, even on a rare occasion, a birthday or holiday card, possibly a letter!

Maybe it’s because I grew up at a time when the daily mail was the primary communication from the outside world, along with the telephone.

Sad to report that starting Friday, new USPS policies give new meaning to the term “snail mail.”

The plan was hatched by the reviled Donald Trump appointee, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, last March, as part of a 10-year strategic plan.

Here are some answers to questions commonly asked by mail users, with a major assist from The Washington Post and USA Today:

How long will it take for mail from a Berkshire County ZIP code to arrive at its destination?

Elsewhere in Massachusetts and the rest of southern New England, figure on two days, but for Vermont, Maine and most of New York state, three days. Mail bound for Florida, the rest of the South and the Midwest, four days. For the West Coast states, the Southwest and the Rockies, five days.

Why the slowdown?

To save money, the Postal Service will truck nearly all items, instead of using airmail for long-distance delivery, as in the past.

What if I’m in a hurry?

Priority Mail Express and Priority Mail still deliver packages in the U.S. within one to three days, but these services are expensive. By the way, the slowdown won’t affect prompt delivery of Amazon packages, a key revenue source for the USPS.

Why are these service cuts and price increases considered necessary?

The Postal Service is losing money because first-class mail use has plummeted and, unlike federal agencies, the USPS — not funded by taxpayers — must prepay its pension obligations to employees far in advance. But, critics of DeJoy’s plan, endorsed by six Trump-appointed postal governing board members, point out that the impact of these changes will mean fewer people will use U.S. mail, and the financial squeeze will tighten instead of loosen.

What are the price hikes, and how long will they last?

Until Dec. 26, 30 cents more for first-class package service, $1 more for returns to retailers, $5 more for Priority Mail, Priority Express Mail, parcel select and retail ground services for items weighing 21 to 70 pounds. But, starting in January, instead of postal rates returning to previous levels, new price increases are expected, though Forever stamps will not go up until next July.

Why is all this happening?

The USPS is desperate because it has nearly $200 billion in liabilities, with additional losses of $160 billion projected in the next 10 years. Postmaster DeJoy hopes the price increases will generate $35 billion to $52 billion in new revenue over the next decade, and the service slowdowns will save an additional $10 billion to $17 billion. Obviously, not enough.

What about holiday mail?

The Postal Service will release shipping schedules soon, but since it delivered more than 1 billion packages last year between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, the best advice is to ship gifts before that peak season crunch.

What’s the bottom line?

Delivery of at least 60 percent of first-class mail (letters, cards, flat items) will be slower than ever (calling all carrier pigeons), prescriptions by mail will be delayed, first-class and other packages will cost more and take longer to ship, and for some companies that cut it close, like Spectrum Cable, bills are likely to arrive on the date they’re due, or even thereafter.

So, you’re about to pay more for less service. And postal rates can go up twice a year from now on, every January and June.

Is this a solution to the Postal Service’s financial woes?

The smart money says no way, and look for other cuts (can six-day-a-week delivery survive?) to come. Why isn’t full funding of the USPS part of the still-pending infrastructure legislation in order to maintain current service, especially crucial in rural America?

I’m rooting for the Postal Service and its intrepid workforce. But, without help from Congress, I wouldn’t bet 58 cents (the current cost of a stamp for a 1-ounce item) on a favorable outcome.

Clarence Fanto can be reached at cfanto@yahoo.com. The opinions expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of

The Berkshire Eagle.