WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp today introduced legislation to improve rural mail service and delivery, increase protections for rural post offices, and make sure postal employees are treated fairly in North Dakota and across the country.
Building on what she has heard from individuals from across North Dakota, including through her Fix My Mail initiative, Heitkamp – a member of the Senate committee overseeing the Postal Service – introduced legislation to specifically address the postal concerns and challenges in rural America. Since launching her grassroots Fix My Mail initiative in January 2014, Heitkamp has received stories from more than 200 North Dakotans about issues they have encountered with delayed mail delivery and poor service from the U.S. Postal Service, and she has led efforts to make sure the Postal Service better works for all rural communities. Earlier this year, she brought together the first bipartisan meeting of Senators from rural states to speak with the U.S. Postmaster General.
A vocal advocate for rural America, Heitkamp’s bill would make sure rural states and communities are no longer disproportionately impacted by cuts to mail service. Over the past few years, communities in rural America, including North Dakota, have faced excessive closures of post offices and mail processing facilities, which is increasing delivery times, reducing service standards, and hurting the Postal Service workforce.
In the Dakotas, only about 65 percent of non-local mail arrived on time within three to five days last quarter, which is about 30 percent below the Postal Service’s own annual goal. And from 2001 to 2013, nearly 400 post offices closed across the country, hurting mail service, particularly in rural communities.
“Mail is a critical lifeline in rural America, and all North Dakotans deserve access to high-quality mail delivery and service, regardless of where they live. But in too many places in North Dakota and rural America, that has not been happening,” said Heitkamp. “Through my Fix My Mail initiative, I’ve heard from folks from across our state that they aren’t receiving their mail and prescription drugs on time, or their local post office has had its operating hours significantly reduced. That can’t be the way the Postal Service operates. My commonsense bill aims to address the needs of rural families and postal employees, and will make an honest difference in rural communities across North Dakota. This isn’t the final step to fixing all the problems with the Postal Service, but any effort to do so needs to include these kinds of protections and support for rural America, and I’ll keep building support so we can meet the postal needs of all Americans.”
Heitkamp’s legislation would tackle rural postal concerns and make meaningful changes to better protect rural communities by:
- Improving Mail Service Standards – The bill would make sure mail reaches its destination faster by restoring stronger service standards, and place a two-year moratorium on the closure of additional mail processing plants.
- Meeting the Needs of Rural Postal Customers – The bill would preserve six-day mail delivery, instead of being added annually in appropriations legislation as it has in recent years.
- Protecting Rural Post Offices – The bill would protect rural post offices from closures, require specific procedures for reducing operating hours at rural post offices, and enable communities to formally petition the Postal Service to reverse closures or reductions in hours.
- Improve Postal Employee Morale – The bill would establish a Chief Morale Officer within the Postal Service to oversee working conditions, staffing, communication, and training efforts.
Joining Heitkamp in introducing her Rural Postal Act were Senators Jon Tester (D-MT), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), and Gary Peters (D-MI). For a one-page summary of the bill, click here. For reactions on the bill from the postal community, click here.
Heitkamp has long led efforts to make significant improvements to mail delivery and service throughout North Dakota’s rural communities, including:
- Standing up for Rural Postal Customers – After sharing stories she received through her Fix My Mail initiative with the Postal Service, Heitkamp successfully received commitments from the agency to improve mail service and delivery throughout North Dakota, including keeping more hours of operation at nearly 30 rural post offices in the state. Last Congress, Heitkamp also successfully gained bipartisan support for two amendments to postal reform legislation to protect rural service, improve oversight of service changes in the Postal Service and develop a strategy to better support postal employees in rural America.
- Pushing for Accountability and Transparency from the Postal Service – Last March, as part of her Fix My Mail initiative, Heitkamp requested a Postal Service Office of Inspector General review of postal standards and employee issues in North Dakota. The report found that for the past several years, the Postal Service failed to process and deliver mail in a timely fashion, lacked retail windows to meet demand, did not have a plan to address rapid population growth, overworked employees, and rarely met national service standards in the state.
- Leading Efforts to Protect the Postal Needs of Rural Communities – In May, Heitkamp brought together the first bipartisan meeting of solely rural-state Senators to meet with U.S. Postmaster General Megan Brennan about the impacts of mail processing facility closures and service standard reductions, and secured a commitment from the Postal Service to work better to meet the needs of rural America. Later that month, Heitkamp co-hosted a Senate roundtable discussion on rural postal issues, calling on leaders in the postal community to work with her to protect delivery and service in rural America.