U.S. Senators Ben Cardin and Barbara A. Mikulski (both D-Md.) today announced that their advocacy to protect mail delivery service standards in the Senate's 21st Century Postal Reform Act has led to changes in the bill that would assure Maryland mail processing facilities remain open. A final vote on the bill is expected in the coming hours.
The Senators today received a letter from Postmaster General Patrick R. Donahoe outlining the Maryland postal facilities that would remain open as a result of these delivery service standards. This includes the Mail Processing Centers in Easton, Cumberland, Baltimore, Linthicum Heights, Capitol Heights, Gaithersburg and Capitol Heights. The full letter is available here. The letter follows up on a verbal commitment by the Postmaster General to Senators Mikulski and Cardin in a meeting last night that the Easton Mail Processing Center will remain open.
"This is a great victory for Maryland communities that rely on the post office for on-time delivery of life saving medications, daily newspapers and important business documents," Senator Mikulski said. "Since the days of the Pony Express and the invention of the telegraph, the Post Office has needed to reform. It's time to reform again. But the Post Office is not a business, it is a public utility, and we need to think of it as a public utility which provides a universal service to keep the juice and electricity of our economy going. I'm proud to stand up and fight to protect rural communities, to protect small businesses, to protect jobs and to protect vulnerable populations who rely on the postal service."
"We need postal reform, but we need to be smart about how we do it so that we preserve important mail delivery services in our communities. I am pleased that the Postmaster General has agreed that the Easton processing facility is critical to the efficient delivery of mail in our state and that it will remain open," said Senator Cardin. "The Easton processing facility provides important jobs in the community and is critical to the prompt delivery of mail in the eastern region of our state."
Senators Cardin and Mikulski advocated for changes in the legislation to include a provision which requires the United States Postal Service (USPS) to maintain delivery standards to ensure that affected communities including farmers, small businesses and a significant rural and elderly population that relies heavily on mail delivery for life saving medications, daily newspapers and commerce would not suffer.
The changes in this bill the Senators fought for will require the post office to maintain overnight delivery standards for nearby communities that have zip codes with the same first three digits. That means that if you're sending a letter from the Tilghman Island at the base of Dorchester County (zip code 21671) to Betterton, Maryland (21610) at the top of Kent County, that letter has to get there overnight - a service that would not be possible without the Easton AMP. If the bill with this provision passes the Senate in the coming hours and ultimately becomes law, the Easton AMP would be essential to meeting the requirements and could not be closed by the Postal Service as long as the overnight delivery standard were in effect.
As the USPS has continued to study the closure of mail processing facilities, the Senators have reaffirmed their commitment to reforming the postal service while protecting jobs and allowing affected communities to have a voice in the process. Following their votes against proceeding to the postal bill in a form that did not protect Maryland mail processing centers, Senators Cardin and Mikulski introduced several amendments to the legislation to help ensure an open and public process in the USPS closure study.
Senator Cardin's amendment would:
? Prohibit the closure of a postal processing facility if the next closest one is more than 50 miles away. The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) had announced previously it would consider closing the Easton facility and moving its functions to Wilmington, DE, approximately 80 miles away.
Senator Mikulski's amendments would do the following:
? No AMP may be closed without a signed certification from that state's Governor stating that closure of that AMP will not harm community safety, disrupt business and commerce, or limit communications for areas with limited broadband access or cell phone coverage;
? No AMP closure may go forward without a community impact study by an independent third party that examines the impact on jobs, unemployment, small businesses and tax revenue, which will be made public prior to finalizing an AMP closure study, allowing appeal from the Postal Regulatory Commission;
? The Postal Service must maintain its "standard of delivery,' preserving overnight delivery for first class mail and mail including prescription drugs for veterans and Medicare recipients, social security checks, veterans' pensions and military pay checks;
? The USPS may not close the Easton AMP on Maryland's Eastern Shore.
Senators Mikulski and Cardin were joined by 27 of their Democratic colleagues in urging Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Chairman Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Ranking Member Susan Collins (R-Maine) to include a provision requiring the USPS to maintain a 1-3 day delivery standard for first class mail. Their letter is available here.
Last month, Senators Mikulski and Cardin sent a strongly worded letter to Postmaster General Patrick R. Donahoe expressing their outrage over the "total disregard for a transparent and public process for consideration of the closure and consolidation of the Easton mail processing center to the Hares Corner mail processing center in Wilmington, Delaware." In the letter to the Postmaster General, the Senators demanded an open "public process."