Panel Approves Move to Protect Rural Post Offices

By: From 13 News, Posted by Ralph Hipp
By: From 13 News, Posted by Ralph Hipp
The bill, co-written by Senator Jerry Moran, will stop closure of post offices while Postal Service determines standards of service.

FILE - In this April 15, 2008 file photo, a woman drops her federal tax return in the mail slot at a post office in Palo Alto, Calif. With the federal deficit topping a record $1 trillion in July, 2009, and rapidly on its way to doubling by this fall, the government desperately needs to squeeze out every tax dollar it can find. That could translate into more audits or at least a letter from the IRS politely asking you to refigure your taxes. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma, file)

WASHINGTON, D.C. – An amendment to the 21st Century Postal Service Act of 2011 authored by U.S. Senator Jerry Moran that would require the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) to set minimum standards of service and consider alternatives to closure prior to closing any post office, was adopted today by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

The amendment would stop the closure of any post office under consideration for closure, including those in Kansas, until the standards of service are finalized. The 21st Century Postal Service Act of 2011 was voted out of committee today and will now move to the full Senate for consideration.

“Across Kansas and America, communities are asking ‘what do we have to do to save our post office?’ But there is no answer. My amendment helps provide an answer by requiring the Postal Service to develop standards of service that must be considered as post office feasibility studies are conducted – while also preventing the closure of any post offices until those standards are in place and are considered in each case.”

The Postal Service will have six months to set these standards, and the final list must be approved by the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC). The amendment requires the Postal Service to include the following criteria in their standards of service:

Geography, including distance to other postal services and maximum time a customer should be expected to travel;

Population, including density and age demographics; and

A requirement to serve remote areas, as well as communities with transportation challenges such as inclement weather or natural geographic obstacles.

Additionally, the Moran amendment requires the US Postal Service to consider alternatives to closure prior to closing any post office, such as reducing the number of hours the post office is open or contracting to provide retail postal services in an alternative establishment such as the local hardware or grocery store.

The amendment also strengthens a community’s ability to appeal to the PRC if the community is still marked for closure after the standards of service are in place and the community members believe the closure decision was reached in error. Finally, the amendment requires the USPS to ensure citizens within the service area of a post office that was closed in the year prior to enactment of the 21st Century Postal Service Act of 2011 can access retail postal services in an alternative establishment such as the local grocery store.

"I am committed to making certain rural America is not forgotten,” Sen. Moran continued. “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 PRC has found that maintaining rural post offices only amounts to 0.7 percent of the Postal Service’s budget. Therefore, reducing service to rural communities and senior citizens will have little benefit to the USPS’ bottom line.

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