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The United States Postal Service stayed the sword hanging over thousands of rural post offices, opting instead to cut opening hours in a bid to stem devastating financial losses. The USPS estimates that the plan will save $500 million a year once it is fully implemented in 2014. A previous proposal to close down more than 3,000 rural post offices completely would have saved $200 million a year.
Under the proposal outlined Wednesday, 13,167 post offices will open for between two and six hours a day. A spokeswoman for the USPS said no post offices will be forced to close, although communities could choose closure and switch to home delivery. "We've listened to our customers in rural America and we’ve heard them loud and clear -- they want to keep their Post Office open," Postmaster General Patrick R. Donahoe said in a statement. "We believe today's announcement will serve our customers' needs and allow us to achieve real savings to help the Postal Service return to long-term financial stability."
The postal service loses $25 million a day and has proposed controversial measures to eliminate Saturday delivery as well as closures in order to restore itself to profitability. The Senate last month passed legislation aimed at making it harder to close post offices, particularly in rural areas, and steering the USPS toward other means of saving money.