Senators Introduce Bill to Protect Rural Post Offices

A bipartisan act introduced in the Senate yesterday could be the answer that Representatives Scott Tipton and Cory Gardner have been looking for. In a letter sent on October 5 to Ruth Goldway, Chairwoman of the Postal Regulatory Commission, Reps. Tipton and Gardner – of Colorado’s 3rd and 4th District, respectively – addressed the proposed closure of 3,653 post offices nationwide, located in primarily rural areas. Of the 71 post offices slated for closure in Colorado, 61 lie in the two Congressmen’s districts.

“Our constituents are concerned that retail discontinuance of some of these post offices could negatively impact their own businesses, especially during these tough economic times,” Tipton and Gardner’s letter read. “Additionally, we are concerned that closing certain facilities will lead to costly and time-consuming commutes. Traveling to distant postal facilities in the 3rd and 4th Congressional Districts during winter months could be extremely difficult, expensive and dangerous. Some post offices that appear to be in geographic proximity are in reality not readily accessible. Finally, some of these post offices that seem to service a proportionately small population are essential to the existence of small isolated communities. The potential effect of these closures should involve significant consideration of the individual or unique characteristics of the respective communities served.”

On October 6, Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) announced the introduction of the Protecting Rural Post Offices Act. Crafted by a bipartisan coalition of Senators, including sponsors Merkley, Jerry Moran (R-KS), Jon Tester (D-MT), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Mark Begich (D-AK) and Ron Wyden (D-OR), the act 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.

“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, in July, announced that it would review the Postal Service’s plan to close post offices and to hold public, on-the-record hearings to analyze and cross-examine the Postal Service’s proposal and supporting evidence. The Commission is also soliciting public comments through its website.

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