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Rural Postal Act introduced in Senate

Sens. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), John Tester (D-MT), Claire McCaskill (D-MO) and Gary Peters (D-MI) have introduced legislation to address the declining quality of mail service in the rural United States. The bill aims to improve rural mail delivery and service standards nationwide.

If passed, the proposed Rural Postal Act would restore the overnight delivery standard for local mail, a standard that has been phased out over the past few years, and it would make permanent the requirement that the U.S. Postal Service deliver mail six days a week. In addition, the bill would place a two-year moratorium on the closing of mail-processing facilities.

Heitkamp serves as ranking member of the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Subcommittee on Regulatory Affairs and Federal Management. As her motivation for introducing the bill, she cited the collapse of delivery performance in the second quarter of the current fiscal year, when just 63 percent of mail was delivered on time.

For months, Heitkamp and several rural state senators from both the Democratic and Republican parties have been working to highlight the disproportionate impact plant closings have had on mail delivery in rural states, where small populations of postal customers are dispersed across sometimes vast geographical distances.

The Rural Postal Act has been characterized as a “marker” for rural senators in the coming debate over broader postal reform legislation.

“Mail is a critical lifeline in rural America,” Heitkamp said. “I’ve heard from folks from across our state that they aren’t receiving their mail and prescription drugs on time, or their local post office has had its operating hours significantly reduced. That can’t be the way the Postal Service operates.

“My common-sense bill aims to address the needs of rural families and postal employees,” she said. “This isn’t the final step to fixing all the problems with the Postal Service, but any efforts to do so need to include these kinds of protections and support for rural America, and I’ll keep building support so we can meet the postal needs of all Americans.”

NALC President Fredric V. Rolando praised Heitkamp for her “tireless work,” and he released the following statement:

Thanks to Senator Heitkamp, there is now a core group of senators from both parties focusing on the Postal Service in this Congress. Letter carriers especially appreciate their steadfast support for six-day and door delivery and for high-quality service standards.

Of course, we all know that the best way to ensure high-quality service is to address the crushing mandate to pre-fund future retiree health insurance costs decades in advance, a mandate that accounts for 85 percent of the Postal Service’s losses in recent years.

NALC is working day and night with industry stakeholders and the new leadership of the Postal Service to build consensus around legislation to fix the pre-funding mess and to give the Postal Service the tools it needs to innovate and prosper in the 21st century. The Rural Postal Act does not address the core financial challenges the Postal Service faces, but the bill represents a positive step in the right direction.

We thank Senators Heitkamp, Tester, McCaskill and Peters for their leadership.