Senate advocates of reviving an attempt to reform the Postal Service continue to hold briefings to build a coalition in favor of legislation, but concerns of legislators representing rural areas might prove to be a stumbling block.
Attempts at postal reform have circulated for years, aimed at relieving an obligation to prefund retiree health insurance that has been a major contributor to postal financial losses of recent years, along with ideas to loosen restrictions on rates, carving out a separate health insurance program for postal retirees and possibly employees as well, and allowing cutbacks in mail delivery days and further closings of facilities under certain conditions.
Due to opposition from Congress USPS recently shelved indefinitely a plan to consolidate more than 80 processing facilities this year.
Sens. Jon Tester, D-Mont., and Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., meanwhile have asked USPS to conduct an in-depth study of rural mail delivery and how it compares with urban delivery; asking for such studies is a common means of slowing down legislative efforts on grounds that an informed decision can’t be made until the results are in.
They said that since 2011, two-thirds of Montana’s mail processing facilities and one-third in North Dakota have been closed, increasing delivery times for first-class mail and virtually eliminating overnight mail delivery in much of the region.
“Recent changes to USPS delivery standards coupled with processing plant closures and consolidations have had a devastating impact on the quality of service in rural America,” the senators wrote. “We firmly believe that the continued closure and consolidation of mail processing plants across the country hinders letter carriers’ ability to ensure timely delivery and diminishes the Postal Service’s competitiveness and relevancy in a twenty-first century business environment.”