Today, the U.S. Senate approved Oregon's Senator Jeff Merkley's amendment to prohibit the closure of rural post offices where such closure would have a substantial impact on small businesses, seniors' access to medication, and the economic strength of the community. Moreover, it bars the closing of any post office if the next nearest post office is more than 10 road miles away. The measure, cosponsored by Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) and offered as part of the 21st Century Postal Service Act, would also put in a place a one year moratorium on most rural postal closings.
"This is a victory for our small businesses, seniors, and all rural Oregonians," Merkley said. "They depend on their local post office to get their goods to market and pick up medication, and I am grateful that Oregonians can continue to count on these crucial services. Our rural post offices are too important to close. They are the heart of our local communities."
Merkley had previously offered legislation to prohibit closing post offices more than 10 miles from another post office. This successful amendment expands on that by establishing additional conditions that must be met before the United States Postal Service can close a rural post office:
Postal customers must continue to receive substantially similar access to essential services, such as prescription medication and time-sensitive communications that are sent through the mail;
Businesses in the community must not suffer substantial economic loss, and the economic loss to the community resulting from the closure must not exceed the savings the Postal Service obtains by closing the post office; and
The area served by the post office must have adequate access to wired broadband Internet service.
Last year, the United States Postal Service put forward a list of 41 Oregon post offices marked for closure. Twenty-one were subsequently removed from that list leaving 20 in danger. Under the Merkley-McCaskill amendment, 11 post offices will be immediately removed from the closure list with strict conditions required to consider closure of the remaining nine.
The amendment was passed by voice vote. The Senate is expected to pass the full reform bill this week and send it to the House of Representatives for consideration.