The Virginia, Maryland & Delaware Association of Electric Cooperatives has urged Congress to oppose dramatic increases in postal rates, warning that they could have an adverse effect on electric cooperatives and the members they serve.

In a letter to members of the Virginia and Maryland congressional delegations, VMDAEC President and CEO Richard G. Johnstone Jr. said planned increases of 6% to 8.5% represent a substantial burden in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent economic crisis.

The U.S. Postal Service Board of Governors is scheduled to decide on the increases later this month. The new rates would take effect this summer and are in addition to a 1.5% increase that took effect on Jan. 24.

“Electric cooperatives are not-for-profit electric utility providers and are owned by our members. As such, we have a financial responsibility to be good stewards of our budgets and are very sensitive to cost increases that could have negative impacts on our members,” Johnstone said. “The proposed increases to USPS rates will place a tremendous burden on electric cooperatives and the members we serve.”

The effects would be felt across all classes of mail, including billings and Cooperative Living magazine, which has a Virginia circulation of 510,000.

“Given the digital divide that leaves much of cooperative service territory unconnected to broadband internet service, many of our communications with members happen via USPS mail,” Johnstone noted. The association asked members of Congress to limit postal rate increases to the rate of inflation.

A copy of the letter can be found here.