Congressman Rick Crawford speaking to a crowd in Grubbs, AR about his efforts to keep rural post offices open.
WASHINGTON – Today, Congressman Rick Crawford announced a new strategy from the U.S. Postal Service that will keep post offices in rural America open while providing significant cost saving measures for the financially strapped service. Previously, the Postal Service had announced plans to close thousands of post offices across the country, 100 of those in Crawford’s First Congressional District. Crawford has been a constant advocate for rural postal customers and has filed legislation to keep rural offices open.
The plan will keep existing offices open, but will modify retail window operating hours. Access to the retail lobby and P.O. Boxes would remain unchanged and Zip Codes and town identities would be preserved. While the new plan is not perfect, it will retain postal services for rural communities.
“After months of pressure, the Postal Service today announced plans to keep rural post offices open. So many of the challenges we face in Washington are not Democrat vs. Republican, but urban vs. rural areas,” said Crawford. “People in our district rely on their post office for medicine deliveries, social security and veterans’ benefits. Today’s announcement by the Postal Service means that rural Americans will keep their community identity and access to postal services. This plan is not perfect, retail hours will be limited. However, Congress now has time to reform the Postal Service while maintaining service to rural communities. This is a win for Arkansas and a win for all of rural America.”
Click Here to see the release from the Postal Service about the new strategy to keep office open.
In November 2011, Crawford introduced H.R. 3370, Protecting Our Rural Post Offices Act of 2011 that prohibits the Postal Service from closing rural post offices that do not have an alternative post office within eight miles accessible by public roads. The Postal Service recently announced plans to close 3,652 post offices across the country, many of them in rural areas. In total, the Postal Service planned to close 211 offices in Arkansas, 100 of those closures were in Crawford’s First Congressional District
H.R. 3370: Protecting Our Rural Post Offices Act of 2011 Facts
In July 2011, the USPS announced it was considering the closure of 3,652 retail postal facilities1.
- At the end of FY2010, there were 35,633 retail postal facilities in the United States1.
While the USPS is a self-serving entity, the U.S Congress requires the USPS to serve the public as a whole:
- “The Postal Service shall provide a maximum degree of effective and regular postal services to rural areas, communities, and small towns where post offices are not self-sustaining. No small post office shall be closed solely for operating at a deficit, it being the specific intent of the Congress that effective postal services be insured to residents of both urban and rural communities” (39 U.S.C. 101(b))1.
Despite laws put in place to protect rural post offices, rural communities have been overwhelmingly targeted for closings.
- In Arkansas 211 post offices have been targeted for closure2.
- 100 of which fall in the 1st District2.
- If you were to spread post office closures evenly amongst every Congressional District, you would need to close roughly 8 per district to reach the USPS’ goal of 3,652 offices.
- There is nothing fair about the USPS’s current method for closing post offices and rural Americans are being burdened with the majority of these closures.
H.R. 3370 would prevent the USPS from closing any post office that does not have an alternate post office within 8 miles as measured by year-round roads.
- Rural roads are rarely straight from town to town and while a post office may be within a 10 mile distance as the crow flies, by no means does that mean that the post office is within 10 miles driving. This legislation would only use the actual driving distance between post offices to determine whether a post office is eligible for closing.
The USPS ran an estimated deficit of nearly $10 billion in FY2010 and there is a clear need for serious reform to cut costs to avoid a taxpayer bailout3.
- This legislation does not hinder the USPS’s ability to address its unsustainable labor costs and can be seen as a companion to postal reform legislation that ensure that reform does not come solely on the backs of rural Americans.
- The real source of the USPS’ long term debt is soaring labor costs that make up 80% of their total costs3. This must be addressed.
- If the USPS were to close all of the proposed 3,653 post offices it would only result in a savings of $200 million per year1. This will do little to rectify the USPS’s astronomical deficit which was approximately $10.8 billion in FY2011.
- As revenue continues to decline, there is a clear need to downsize the USPS. H.R. 3370 will ensure that the USPS takes a balanced and fair approach to cutting costs.
1. Kosar, Kevin R., Analyst in American National Government for the Congressional Research Service. “The U.S. Postal Service: Common Questions About Post Office Closures.” August 4,2011. http://www.crs.gov/pages/Reports.aspx?PRODCODE=R41950&Source=search
2. Prov: Cathy Pagano, United States Postal Service, Arkansas Study List
3. Kosar, Kevin R., Analyst in American National Government for the Congressional Research Service. “The U.S. Postal Service’s Financial Condition: Overview and Issues for Congress.” August 4,2011. http://www.crs.gov/pages/Reports.aspx?PRODCODE=R41024&Source=search