Postmaster general: Find revenue sources

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WASHINGTON — The nation’s new postmaster general says the Postal Service is looking beyond its regular mail and package delivery for new sources of revenue.

That means building on what Megan J. Brennan calls its “core competency” — the delivery of goods.

So what is the agency doing?

“We’re testing grocery delivery in San Francisco,” Brennan said in an interview with The Associated Press. “We’re also delivering water, cases of water in Manhattan and the boroughs” of New York City.

During the 2014 holiday season, the Postal Service rolled out a new deal with Amazon to deliver packages and to expand Sunday deliveries of them.

Brennan, the first female postmaster general, is easing into her first days on the job. At age 52, she’s a 29-year veteran of the Postal Service who started her career as a letter carrier in Pottsville, Pa.

“I had mentors along the way … and I was flexible,” she said. “I relocated. I took on assignments and I kept learning.”

Brennan is the 74th postmaster general. Benjamin Franklin was the first.

She said the agency has to find a way to be relevant with a younger consumer base, and that includes a mobile app for cellphones. The Postal Service says the app can be used for buying stamps, creating shipping labels and tracking packages.

The Postal Service, which receives no tax dollars, has had its share of financial difficulties in recent years.

Since 1971, it has been posting annual losses, including a $5.5 billion shortfall in the budget year that ended Sept. 30. The shortfalls have been largely fueled by a requirement that the Postal Service prefund retiree health benefits. Also, first-class mail, long the agency’s most profitable product, fell by 2.2 billion pieces in 2014.

Seeking to cut costs, her predecessor, Patrick R. Donahoe, had tried to get Congress to withdraw the prefunding requirement but without success.

The agency under Donahoe also proposed eliminating Saturday delivery and closing some rural post offices. Brennan supports delivering mail five days a week and packages seven days a week.

With the decline of first-class mail volumes, Brennan is also carrying out a plan to modify retail hours to match customer demand to help keep open smaller post offices around the country.

Brennan already has been meeting with members of Congress to discuss financing issues and other major problems facing the Postal Service, including the financial drain presented by having to prepay retirees’ health benefits.