Saturday, June 28, 2014

U.S. Postal Service losing tens of millions annually subsidizing shipments to Alaska

By Lisa Rein, WashPost, June 28 at 7:52 PM

The U.S. Postal Service has lost about $2.5 billion since the early 1980s delivering goods to Alaska’s remote villages. The program, called the Alaska Bypass, was created in part to help curb the otherwise high cost of shipping groceries to Alaska Natives. Critics say the savings are not passed on to customers and are pressing for a lower postal subsidy.

HOOPER BAY, Alaska — In the soggy, unforgiving tundra on the shores of the Bering Sea, Royala Bell defrosts a rack of beef ribs for dinner in a kitchen that doubles as a bedroom for six of her seven children.

A dead owl lies on the floor, ready for her husband, Carlton, to defeather it for a headdress. Fish dry on a line out back, for the larder in winter. On a small counter are some of the groceries the Bells consume from the Lower 48: Sailor Boy Pilot Bread, potatoes, Kool-Aid, Aunt Jemima pancake mix and a can of Coca-Cola.

The U.S. Postal Service paid to ship the items on a turboprop bush plane to this small settlement of Yupik Indians on Alaska’s western edge. The Bells brought them home on the back of their all-terrain vehicle from Hooper Bay’s only grocery store. The 12-pack of Coke alone cost the Postal Service $21 to get here.

(More here.)

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