A spokesman for the Postal Service says no legislation is needed to prevent the closings of rural post offices, because the service has backed off of that proposal.
United States Postal Service regional spokesman Brian Sperry, out of the USPS Denver office, has a message for Nebraska.
“I think it’s important for your listeners to know that the Postal Service is no longer considering a plan to close offices, but instead is keeping small post offices open by modifying retail window hours based on customer use,” Sperry tells Nebraska Radio Network.
In other words, offices seeing fewer people will be open for fewer hours each day.
The Postal Service had once proposed closing more than 3,700 post offices throughout the country to save money. That proposal took direct aim at 90 post offices in Nebraska, mostly rural post offices serving very small communities. The proposal later expanded to 111 Nebraska post offices.
Public protest and Congressional pressure caused the Postal Service to back off of the proposal and reconsider its options.
Sperry says USPS worked with the communities served by those 111 post offices on alternatives to keep the offices open, yet cut costs. Nearly all communities, according to Sperry, preferred shorter hours over consolidation. Depending on the number of customers, rural offices will be open anywhere from two to six hours.
The Postal Service has been bleeding red ink, up to $25 million in losses each day.
Sperry says USPS has a five-year strategy to save $20 billion.
“But, in order to implement that plan it requires the assistance of Congress,” Sperry says. “So, we’re requesting that Congress pass comprehensive postal legislation that will allow the Postal Service to adapt to a rapidly changing market place.”
Sperry says the mail system can prove viable long-term. Even though technology has hurt the Postal Service as more people pay bills online and correspond via email and text, technology might provide a path to profitability. The USPS package business is up 8.8% as it delivers goods bought online. Use of priority mail is on the rise as well.
Congressman Adrian Smith has sponsored the Securing Access to Rural Postal Services Act of 2013 [PDF of legislation] along with other members of Congress. It has been referred to the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.
Smith spokesman, Rick Van Meter, tells Nebraska Radio Network the Congressman believes the legislation is still needed, despite the Postal Services change of heart.
“Just because the Postal Service has set aside their proposal to close small post offices, does not mean they will not try to do so again in the future. As the House of Representatives works on postal reform legislation, Congressman Smith’s bill is a necessary safeguard to prevent rural post offices from being disproportionately targeted,” Van Meter says in a statement released to Nebraska Radio Network in an email.
AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [1 min.]