Senators Urge Leadership to Consider Rural Communities in Postal Service Reforms

Office of Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO) News Release

Senators Mark Udall and Michael Bennet, along with Senators Tim Johnson (D-SD) and Kent Conrad (D-ND), are urging Senate committee leaders to consider Western states and rural communities when exploring potential reforms to the U.S. Postal Service.

“We think a long-term viable postal service must be placed on a secure financial trajectory while protecting the important role that USPS plays in rural America,” the senators wrote in the letter to the leaders of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs and the subcommittee dealing with the Postal Service.

“While it is imperative that we address current structural dilemmas facing the USPS such as the mandate to pre-fund future retiree health benefits and overpayments into the Federal Employee Retirement System (FERS), we must set the Postal Service on a new course that embraces innovation and creative business practices and protects the millions of Americans who depend on this longstanding institution regardless of sleet or snow, six days a week, year after year.”

In the letter, the senators outlined priorities for reform that encourage innovation, take creative approaches to existing assets and maintain the competitive edge.

In June, Udall and Bennet sent a letter to the U.S. Postmaster General expressing concern over USPS location closures and consolidations that could make it more difficult for Coloradans to send letters and mail packages. In September, they sent a letter to Ruth Goldway, chairwoman of the Postal Regulatory Commission, urging the Postal Regulatory Commission to carefully consider the effects of possible postal service closures on rural areas and small towns in Colorado and across the country.

Full text of the letter is included below.

Dear Chairman Lieberman, Ranking Member Collins, Chairman Carper, Ranking Member Brown,

As the Committee and Subcommittee explore potential reforms to the United States Postal Service (hereinafter, USPS or the “Postal Service”), we encourage you to value the essential role that it plays in western states and rural America as a whole. USPS delivers to 308 million locations daily, bringing in $67 billion annually at zero operating expense to American taxpayers. From personal banking services to retail advertising, both public and private sectors rely upon USPS to facilitate contact with rural communities and markets that might otherwise lack connectivity.

In fact, private sector enterprises often rely on USPS to provide final destination deliveries to many of these remote locations that would otherwise be deemed unprofitable. It is critical that any changes to the USPS do not undermine current law to provide maximum access to postal services for both urban and rural Americans.

We are supportive of your recent efforts to introduce postal service reform legislation, and would ask the Committee to consider the following standard as you seek to move forward. We think a long-term viable postal service must be placed on a secure financial trajectory while protecting the important role that USPS plays in rural America.

Encourage Innovation

The USPS must transform itself to meet the demands of 21st century consumers and businesses. The Postal Service has a long tradition of adapting to changing technology and it must do so again with the ever increasing prevalence of the internet. The USPS has to work quickly to identify and adapt to new markets such as digital mail services and build stronger partnerships with the private sector to strengthen and expand its business.

Creative Approaches to Existing Assets

We are also concerned with plans to close a number of post offices serving rural areas. Small and remote communities especially in rural and mountain regions, often depend on the local post office for their mail service and as an accessible representation of the federal government. Additionally, the possible closure of post offices on Indian reservations would place a significant burden on residents, many of whom live in remote areas and lack reliable transportation. Reservations post offices perform a critical service where many residents rely on their post office to engage in commerce, access to government services and pay their bills. We believe that there are considerable opportunities for the USPS to reassess its existing capital assets and maximize their unique role in rural communities. For example, the Postal Service should be encouraged to work with other government agencies to explore housing multiple government services through existing post office centers. We are also supportive of efforts to identify potential post office locations whose services could be housed elsewhere in local communities such as markets and banks. Proposals such as these offer opportunities to save costs, promote efficiency and strengthen accessibility for the general public.

Maintain Competitive Edge

Some proposed reforms to the USPS include eliminating Saturday delivery to institute a shortened delivery week. By doing so, the Postal Service would be relinquishing a significant portion of its market share for relatively nominal savings. A number of businesses that depend on the USPS for Saturday delivery such as banks, retailers, and periodicals would turn elsewhere for Saturday service leaving the USPS at a competitive loss. Similarly and as mentioned above, the Postal Service provides a unique product to thousands of rural and remote communities that would otherwise lack the same access to the broader marketplace. We do not believe that it is in the Postal Service’s best long-term interests to forfeit these considerable components to its overall business portfolio.

While it is imperative that we address current structural dilemmas facing the USPS such as the mandate to pre-fund future retiree health benefits and overpayments into the Federal Employee Retirement System (FERS), we must set the Postal Service on a new course that embraces innovation and creative business practices and protects the millions of Americans who depend on this longstanding institution regardless of sleet or snow, six days a week, year after year.

We appreciate your consideration on these matters.

  • Uh Oh

    The Congress should immediately enact legislation placing every unemployed person in the country on the payroll of USPS. They can also mandate each city in the nation have at least one post office regardless of how it affects mail stream efficiency. They can also neglect to allocate any funding to carry out these initiatives, but can claim credit for solving all problems for everyone at once time. Stamps may rise to $25 to cover the costs of these ideas, but Congress can always pass another law reducing stamp prices to whatever level they deem appropriate. It’s not like the laws of the marketplace apply to the USPS in the real world. It is a vote generating machine for unionized workers which happens to try to dole out mail each day.