Tester, Heitkamp, McCaskill, Peters Introduce Legislation to Improve Mail Delivery & Service in Rural Communities

Senators’ Bill is the First to Specifically Address Postal Concerns and Issues throughout Rural America, which has been Disproportionately Impacted by Cuts to Mail Service

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Jon Tester (D-MT), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), and Gary Peters (D-MI) today introduced legislation to improve rural mail service and delivery, and provide protections for post offices and postal employees in rural communities across the country.

After consistently hearing about challenges rural Americans have encountered with the Postal Service – including delayed mail delivery times, mail processing facilities that have been closed, and rural post offices that have had their operating hours significantly reduced – Tester, Heitkamp, McCaskill, and Peters introduced the Rural Postal Act of 2015 to specifically address these issues in rural communities across the country. Rural areas have been disproportionately impacted by cuts to mail service and delivery. Over the past few years, communities in rural America have faced excessive closures of post offices and mail processing facilities, increased delivery times, reduced service standards, and a distressed Postal Service workforce.

Nationwide, only about 63 percent of non-local mail arrived on time within three to five days last quarter, which is more than 30 percent below the Postal Service’s own annual goal. And from 2001 to 2013, nearly 400 post offices closed across the country, hurting mail service, particularly in rural communities.

“Each day folks in all corners of the country count on the timely delivery of letters, bills, medicine, and election ballots,” said Tester. “The Postal Service is critical for our rural way of life, and this bill takes important steps to restore delivery standards by preventing future processing plant closures and preserving six-day mail delivery.”

“Mail is a critical lifeline in rural America, and all North Dakotans deserve access to high-quality mail delivery and service, regardless of where they live. But in too many places in North Dakota and rural America, that has not been happening,” said Heitkamp. “Through my Fix My Mail initiative, 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 commonsense bill aims to address the needs of rural families and postal employees, and will make an honest difference in rural communities across North Dakota. This isn’t the final step to fixing all the problems with the Postal Service, but any effort to do so needs 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.”

“Restoring critical delivery benchmarks such as overnight delivery and First-Class mail standards would help ensure that our small towns and rural communities get the same high level of postal service that folks in urban areas enjoy,” said McCaskill. “Fighting for all Missourians’ access to consistent, reliable postal service is personal for me, and it’s a goal I’m not giving up on.”

“People across Michigan and the nation rely on the Postal Service to provide timely home delivery, from elderly Americans who depend on social security checks and prescription drugs to small businesses that need time-sensitive documents,” said Peters. “I’m proud to support this effort to protect the six-day delivery schedule and prevent the closure of rural postal facilities so that every community in Michigan has access to reliable postal services.”

The Senators’ legislation would tackle rural postal concerns and make meaningful changes to better protect rural communities by:

• Improving Mail Service Standards – The bill would make sure mail reaches its destination faster by restoring stronger service standards, and place a two-year moratorium on the closure of additional mail processing plants.

• Meeting the Needs of Rural Postal Customers – The bill would permanently preserve six-day mail delivery, instead of being added annually in appropriations legislation as it has in recent years.

• Protecting Rural Post Offices – The bill would protect rural post offices from closures, require specific procedures for reducing operating hours at rural post offices, and enable communities to formally petition the Postal Service to undo closures or reductions in hours.

• Improve Postal Employee Morale – The bill would establish a Chief Morale Officer within the Postal Service to oversee working conditions, staffing, communication, and training efforts.

For a one-page summary of the bill, click here.

Earlier this year, Heitkamp brought together the first bipartisan meeting of Senators from rural states to speak with the U.S. Postmaster General to discuss the impact mail processing facility closures and service standard reductions have had on rural America. Following that meeting, in May, Heitkamp, Tester, McCaskill, and Senator Tom Carper (D-DE) co-hosted a roundtable discussion with postal leaders in the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs about rural postal issues and the need to protect delivery and service throughout rural America.

Since launching her grassroots Fix My Mail initiative in January 2014, Heitkamp has received stories from more than 200 North Dakotans about issues they have encountered with delayed mail delivery and poor service from the U.S. Postal Service, and she has led efforts to make sure the Postal Service better works for all rural communities. The legislation aims to address many of the concerns she has heard from individuals across North Dakota and other challenges in rural America.