This week the U.S. Postal Service announced a new strategy to keep rural post offices open. Previously, the Postal Service had planned to close over 3,600 offices, many of them in rural communities. Our First Congressional District could have lost as many as 100 post offices, creating a tremendous hardship for people who rely on their local branch. While the announcement to keep offices in our district open is a step in the right direction, I am pushing ahead with efforts to ensure rural post offices cannot be closed at a future date.
In November of 2011, I introduced H.R. 3370, the Protecting Our Rural Post Offices Act that prohibits the Postal Service from closing rural post offices that do not have an alternative office within eight miles accessible by public roads. Now that the Postal Service has announced plans to keep all offices open, Congress can enact reforms that will ensure rural Americans no longer have to worry about access to mail services. In our district, people rely on their local post office for medicine deliveries, Social Security and veterans’ benefits. Our district should not be denied postal services simply because we live in rural Arkansas.
The new plan from the Postal Service is not perfect. The retail window at many post offices will have limited operating hours. However, access to the retail lobby and post office boxes will remain unchanged. Additionally, towns will keep their zip codes and community identities will be preserved. Limited retail operating hours are not ideal, but when weighed against the alternative of shutting the offices down completely, I am grateful the Postal Service has listened to the concerns of rural Americans and will keep our rural post offices open.
After months of efforts, the Postal Service heard our call. The meetings, pressure from Congress, phone calls, letters and emails have paid off. The Postal Service reversed course from closing 100 offices in our district, to not closing a single office. Many people in Washington see Arkansas as “flyover country.” This week we proved that rural America will not be ignored. This is an incredible win for Arkansas.
So many of the challenges we face in Washington are not Democrat vs. Republican, but urban vs. rural interests. In small communities across Arkansas the post office is more than a place to mail letters and buy stamps. The post office represents the town identity and lets the world know the community exists. If post offices were to completely close, and small communities no longer had their own zip codes, municipal identities would be lost. Thankfully, closures are no longer planned. For my part, I will continue efforts to ensure rural Arkansas communities keep access to postal services and our rural way of life is preserved.