DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) -- The U.S. Postal Service said Monday it no longer plans to close 600 urban and suburban postal branch offices and satellite stations.
The facilities in many cities serve as neighborhood post offices. The Postal Service announced last year that it was looking at closing up to 252 mail-processing centers and 3,700 post offices, as part of a plan to save some $6.5 billion a year.
It began backing off the plan last week, saying it no longer planned to close thousands of rural post offices but would keep them open with shorter hours. Monday's announcement, provided to The Associated Press before its official release, addressed 600 branches and satellite stations that had been included in the original study for closure and were expected to shut down sometime after Tuesday.
"Any proposals to close these facilities have been placed on hold and will not close at this time," said a statement from Richard Watkins, Postal Service spokesman in the Kansas City area. "Going forward, the Postal Service will evaluate how best to incorporate them into long-term plans for effective and efficient retail service."
The Postal Service has said it will also put forward a new plan for the mail processing centers later this week.
It has been struggling as people switch to email and other electronic forms of communication.
The Senate offered an $11 billion cash infusion last month, but Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe said that amount fell far short of what is needed to save the Postal Service in the long term. The House has yet to take action on its own bill.
Among the post offices considered for closure was the Capitol Square Post Office in downtown Des Moines, where a rally was planned Monday in support of keeping it open.
The American Postal Workers Union, The National Federation of the Blind Iowa, a local law office, and the Alliance of Retired Americans planned the rally and informational picket.
They say closure would leave downtown residents and businesses without easy access to a post office. The elderly and those without cars or other transportation to the main post office are particularly concerned, said Lance Coles, president of the American Postal Workers local union.
"You don't quit providing what you do in order to survive," he said.
Pressure has been building on the Postal Service to extend a self-imposed moratorium on the closure of post offices and mail processing facilities. It was set to expire Tuesday.
Last week, 100 members of Congress signed letter directed to Donahoe asking him wait until Congress can act.
"The USPS is a major employer around the country and employs over 500,000 workers," the letter said. "With an unacceptably high unemployment rate, it would be particularly inopportune for the USPS to close facilities."
Some mail processing centers could still close or merge. For example, one proposal calls for the Springfield, Mo., center to have its work merged into the Kansas City operation and the Cape Girardeau, Mo., processing center work moved to St. Louis.
In Nebraska, the Norfolk and Grand Island centers may be merged into Omaha and Alliance work moved to North Platte.
The Postal Service last week reported a quarterly loss of $3.2 billion and said without legislative action, it will be forced to default on more than $11 billion in health prepayments due to the Treasury this fall.
The Postal Service is an independent agency of government and does not receive tax money for its operations but is subject to congressional control over major aspects of its business.