US Post Office enters holiday rush

File photo: This week is the busiest time of the year for post offices in the U.S.
File photo: This week is the busiest time of the year for post offices in the U.S.
Sean Nash/Flickr (Creative Commons-licensed)

The U.S. Postal Service is entering its busiest week of the year as last-minute shoppers scramble to send their holiday packages to loved ones just days before Christmas.

Spokesman Richard Maher said the earlier customers ship packages, the better, since the postal service is both short-staffed and underfunded this Christmas season.

“The postal service is in a financial crisis so we have not brought in extra help, but we will deliver the holidays just as we always have," he said. "Our hardworking employees are going to put in a few extra hours and make sure all those cards and packages and letters are delivered.”

Earlier this month, the Postal Service announced almost $3 billion in service cuts and future plans to shutter more than half of its 461 mail processing centers.

The cuts will slow delivery of first-class mail for the first time in 40 years, and will almost certainly kill the famous one-day delivery.

Congress passed an extension last weekend that will give USPS five extra months to pre-fund the future retirements of hundreds of thousands of workers.

“We are pleased that the action taken by Congress and the president once again prevents the Postal Service from defaulting on the $5.5 billion payment to prefund retiree health benefits,” USPS spokesman David Partenheimer said Monday.

But, in the meantime, the mail keeps on coming- especially during holiday season. Spokesman Richard Maher reminded customers that it’s important to pack their boxes well so gifts arrive in one piece.

“A little green tip here is to use air-popped popcorn inside your package," he said. "It’s biodegradable. It’s a good packing material and the recipient can even string it and put it on the tree as a decoration.”

Maher also added that if customers want to avoid long lines at the post office, they can mail packages without leaving home by using the postal service’s website,