Washington, DC –A bipartisan coalition of Senators today introduced the Protecting Rural Post Offices Act, which would require that a post office closure cannot result in more than a ten mile distance between post offices, measured on roads with year-round access. The bill is sponsored by Senators Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Jon Tester (D-MT), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Mark Begich (D-AK), and Ron Wyden (D-OR).
“In Oregon, 80% of the post offices on the potential closure list are more than ten miles from the next nearest post office. That is unacceptable,” Merkley said. “Rural post offices are the hub of community life and an essential communications link. Post offices are the bedrock of rural communities. We must ensure everyone has access to a post office.”
“The Postal Regulatory Commission has found that maintaining rural post offices only amounts to 0.7 percent of the Postal Service’s budget. While I recognized the USPS is facing difficult financial times, reducing service to rural communities and senior citizens will have little or no benefit to their bottom line,” Sen. Moran said. “Because of local post offices, many small businesses can still keep their doors open in rural Kansas. And, for many senior citizens who no longer have the ability to drive long distances, it is the local post office that gives them a personal and business connection to the rest of the world. The Postal Service should not be allowed to create one more hurdle for the survival of rural America.”
“In Montana and across rural America, post offices define communities and serve as lifelines to the rest of the world—providing everything from important communication and correspondence to medication,” Tester said. “If post offices are shut down, entire communities will lose their identities and many of them will disappear. We must put sideboards on the Postal Service to prevent closures from disproportionately hurting rural and frontier America. And I am working with Montanans and my colleagues to find a thoughtful solution.”
“Alaska is a state of extremes – extreme beauty, yes, but also extremely limited surface transportation options and extreme winters,” Murkowski said. “What is ten miles in the lower 48 seems much further in feet of snow and minimal visibility. That’s why I am proud to join my fellow Senators in sponsoring a bipartisan bill to keep Alaskans extremely connected – not just to typical mail, but to groceries, medicine and other supplies.”
“There’s no replacement in rural Alaska for the post office which is really a community center where locals get their medicine, groceries and other vital equipment,” said Sen. Begich. “We’re introducing this legislation because the Postal Service needs to be clear about the standards used to evaluate post offices. In many rural Alaska communities, year-round road access is as foreign a thought as an Arizona glacier or a piece of Oklahoma beach-front property.”
“The post office is not only a place where people send and receive mail and packages, including mail order prescriptions, but it is often central to the identity of a community where residents can congregate, meet with neighbors and, in Oregon, vote-by-mail,” Wyden said. “If post offices in rural Oregon were closed, residents would have to drive, 20 or 30 miles one way to get to the nearest post office. This is a particular hardship for elderly and disabled residents. It is unreasonable to ask anyone to drive more than an hour round-trip to have access to a post office.”
The United States Postal Service (USPS) is considering closing 3,700 post offices across the country, most of which are in rural America. In Oregon, USPS is considering closing 41 post offices.