Postal woes could affect newspapers

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Postal office compliance issues could escalate
BY TONDA F. RUSH

WASHINGTON—Episodic snarls in acceptance of newspaper mail at Business Mail Entry Unit offices or origin-entry post offices could blossom into a nationwide problem because of U.S. Postal Service crackdowns on offices not yet in Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) compliance.
National Newspaper Association Postal Committee Chair Max Heath has been called on to mediate dozens of disputes between publishers and post offices that are misunderstanding corporate USPS direction on newspaper mail entered after critical entry times.
Heath said he wanted to remind NNA members that a national policy exempting small newspapers from rules requiring mail to be entered simultaneously with postage statements is already in place. Exceptions are also often granted for larger newspapers.
He advises that members should first ask their local post office to inquire of their bosses about the newspaper-entry management instruction in DM-109 5-5.1 on overnight drops. If all else fails, contact Heath through NNA.
Mail entered outside the post office’s cutoff time for acceptance (CET) should be considered the same as overnight drops. Such newspapers should be entered into the PostalOne! system as “Overnight Drop eligible.”
SOX audits have led USPS to conclude it may be losing money for mail shipped without proper postage payment. New rules requiring mail to be accepted only after certain verifications have gone into effect, but deadlines for compliance are May 31, as USPS undergoes SOX testing from June to September.
USPS officials have been insistently reminding their BMEUs/post offices about the need for strict compliance.
“The panic over compliance is leading to a lot of fear and loathing, even from our usually-friendly BMEUs,” Heath said.
“Postal clerks are feeling at risk for losing their jobs if they don’t stop our mail until they make sure all the i’s are dotted and t’s crossed. It has resulted in some of our members’ mail being unnecessarily delayed, and that is creating animosity between us and our vendors at USPS that we ought to be able to avoid.
“Newspapers that understand the policy and keep postage money in their accounts should be able to work around these problems.
NNA offers help to its members. We often also assist non-members in times of need, but the volume of these complaints has risen to the point that we must give priority to our members,” he said.
“It is a great time to make sure your dues are paid. We need to work together as USPS changes, and we need newspapers to become part of the solution, not part of the problem. I could say the same about the Postal Service, but sometimes that message is harder to convey.”

TONDA F. RUSH is NNA director/public policy. She can be reached at tonda@nna.org.

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