Guiding lights

Man gestures at podium decorated with Hanukkah stamp image

Hanukkah, a Jewish holiday that is more than 2,000 years old, was honored Oct. 16 at the dedication of the Postal Service’s newest holiday stamp.

USPS and Israel Post jointly issued the stamp, which features artwork created using the techniques of papercutting, a traditional Jewish folk art.

Judge Gary Shapiro, the Postal Service’s judicial officer, traced the history of Hanukkah during the ceremony, which was held at the 225-year-old Touro Synagogue, the nation’s oldest synagogue, in Newport, RI.

The holiday celebrates the rededication of a Jerusalem temple during the second century B.C. after the building had been reconquered from armies that desecrated the sanctuary. According to tradition, during the rededication, the sacramental oil needed to light the lamps burned for eight days, even though there only was enough oil for one day.

“The holiday reminds us to keep the flame of our religion and culture burning to be passed along to the next generation,” Shapiro said.

Other speakers included Israel Post Philatelic Service Director Elhanan Shapira; Touro Synagogue Foundation Chair B. Schlessinger Ross; and USPS Connecticut Valley District Manager David D. Mastroianni Jr., who served as the master of ceremonies.

The Hanukkah stamp is available at Post Offices and usps.com.

End in sight

Smiling doctor speaks to patient

Postal Service employees enrolled in a health care flexible spending account (FSA) program through FSA Feds have until Dec. 31 to incur claims.

However, you can carry over as much as $500 in health care FSA funds into next year if you re-enroll in the FSA program for 2019 during the annual open season enrollment period, which runs from Nov. 12-Dec. 10 this year.

Any funds in excess of $500 will be forfeited. If you don’t re-enroll, all remaining funds — including the $500 — will be forfeited.

Unlike the health care FSA, you have a grace period for dependent care FSAs. The last day to incur expenses for a 2018 dependent care FSA is March 15, 2019.

The last day to submit all claims for both 2018 health care and dependent care FSAs is April 30, 2019.

Claims for 2018 should be submitted to FSA Feds. If you opted for paperless reimbursement on your health care FSA, you don’t need to submit claims.

If you haven’t opted for paperless reimbursement, go to the Flexible Spending Accounts LiteBlue page for more information on available claims submission options.

The FSA Feds site has additional information.

New look

Stack of passport books

USPS has updated the Retail Customer Appointment Scheduler, a tool that allows customers to go online or use a mobile device to schedule first-time passport application appointments at participating Post Offices.

Here’s what you’ll see:

• The tool now has a look and “feel” like other usps.com applications.

• The confirmation page presented to customers after they’ve scheduled their appointment provides detailed information on how to prepare for their appointment.

• The user “flow” and order of entry during the online scheduling process has been updated to expedite the scheduling process and improve the customer’s overall experience.

These improvements streamline the online scheduling process for customers and reduce issues for participating Post Offices.

Need to know

Chart with scanning data displayed next to image of postal worker scanning mail

Scanning snapshot. The Postal Service’s national scanning rating was 97.36 percent during the week ending Oct. 12, down from one week earlier.

Dakotas (98.91 percent) topped the districts, while Eastern (97.75 percent) led the areas.

Scanning allows customers to track their packages and mail, and it helps USPS improve efficiency and network management.

To see the latest results, go to the Enterprise Analytics site and select “Analytics Tools,” followed by “DES 2 Scan Dashboard.”

After the storm. The Postal Service is continuing to resume regular operations in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael, which struck the Southeast last week.

The USPS Service Alerts site has the latest information.

CSAC appointments. Three individuals have been appointed to the Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee (CSAC), a panel that evaluates all stamp proposals received by the Postal Service.

The Postmaster General appoints CSAC members, who provide expertise on history, science and technology, art, education, sports and other subjects of public interest.

The new members are Ivan Cash, an award-winning interactive artist and film director in Oakland, CA; Spencer R. Crew, a history professor at George Mason University in Fairfax, VA; and Mike Harrity, the senior associate athletics director at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana.

Last week’s news release has more information.

Got news for “Need to know”? Email your submissions to uspslink@usps.gov.