The U.S. Postal Service will stop delivering mail on Saturdays but continue to deliver packages six days a week under a plan aimed at saving about $2 billion, the financially struggling agency says. (Feb. 6)

Word that the cash-strapped Postal Service would stop delivering mail on Saturdays hit Lakesha Johnson hard.

"I think that's terrible," the Baltimore woman said Wednesday outside the city's Main Post Office on East Fayette Street. "When they want to save money, it's always us who suffer."

But Don Seto said it wouldn't make much difference to him.

"I pay bills online, I use email," said Seto, a biology professor who also uses the Internet to discuss research with colleagues, during a visit to the downtown Annapolis branch. "Things have changed."

Reactions to the Postal Service's announcement Wednesday that it will cut the home delivery of first-class mail to five days a week starting in August ranged from anger to shrugs.

Mail will still be delivered to post office boxes on Saturdays, and carriers will continue home delivery of packages. But customers expecting letters and magazines at home will have to wait until Monday.

Postmaster General Patrick R. Donahoe said the move, the latest in a series of cost-cutting measures at an agency that lost $16 billion last year, will generate savings of $2 billion annually.

Americans back the change as a way of cutting costs, Donahoe said, citing polls by Gallup and several news organizations in 2010 that showed support at nearly 70 percent.

"The American public understands the financial challenges of the Postal Service," he said. The agency "has a responsibility to take the steps necessary to return to long-term financial stability and ensure the continued affordability of the U.S. Mail."

The rise of email and online banking has taken a deep bite out of postal revenues. A 2006 law that requires massive prepayments for future retiree benefits has drained the agency of cash.

The Postal Service relies on the sale of postage, products and services for funding. It does not receive tax dollars.

Since 2006, officials said, the service has cut annual costs by some $15 billion, shed 193,000 jobs, or 28 percent of its career workforce, and consolidated more than 200 mail-processing locations.

Postal officials have long advocated five-day delivery, while seeking congressional relief from the benefit prepayments.

But with lawmakers unable to agree on a plan to restore the agency to solvency, the service's board of governors last month directed officials to stop waiting for legislation and accelerate cost-cutting measures on their own.

Rep. Elijah Cummings of Baltimore, the top Democrat on the House committee that oversees the Postal Service, said that "comprehensive postal reform legislation" must be "an urgent priority" for Congress.

But he added that "the issue of service delivery frequency should be addressed in that legislation rather than through arbitrary action by the Postal Service."

The American Postal Workers Union, the National Association of Letter Carriers and the National Rural Letter Carriers' Association all opposed the plan.

Cliff Gurley, president of the 222,000-member APWU, said it would "only deepen the agency's congressionally manufactured financial crisis."

"The USPS has already begun slashing mail service by closing 13,000 post offices or drastically reducing hours of operation, shutting hundreds of mail processing facilities, and downgrading standards for mail delivery to America's homes and businesses," he said. "The effects are being felt in cities and towns across the country. USPS executives cannot save the Postal Service by tearing it apart."

Rep. Darrell Issa, the Republican chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, called five-day delivery a "money-saving, smart move" that will "be a step in rightsizing the post office."