Senate passes measure to stop rural post office closures

Billings Gazette

by Staff Writer

A U.S. Senate panel passed a measure on Wednesday that would prevent the U.S. Postal Service from closing rural post offices, according to a news release.

The measure, proposed by Sen. Jon Tester, was added to the 21st Century Postal Service Act and prevents the closing of rural post offices until USPS establishes criteria determining whether a post office should be closed.

The measure also asks for USPS to consider alternative ways to save money, including shortening hours of operation or relocating post offices to new locations.

"There's no doubt that the Postal Service needs strong action to get back on sound financial footing," Tester said in a news release. "But the postmaster general cannot balance his books on the back of rural America. Montanans have made it clear to me that they depend on their community post offices for reliable mail service, and I won't let the Postal Service ignore their voices."

About 85 rural Montana post offices are undergoing a USPS study determining whether or not the offices should be closed. Several already received notices of potential closure.

The measure gives the USPS six months to develop the new criteria, which must consider the distance of one post office to another.

It also stipulates the USPS must reconsider each post office that is up for closure.

The 21st Century Postal Service Act as amended is awaiting a vote by the full Senate.