As you know, last year the United States Postal Service dramatically increased its attempts to close post offices around the country in order to help save the agency money, primarily those in rural areas. In fact, almost 200 postal facilities here in Arkansas were being considered for possible closure. I have strongly opposed these closures because closing rural post offices would disproportionately hurt people in rural areas and those on fixed incomes.
In an effort to save rural post offices and encourage the U.S. Postal Service to look at other cost-cutting alternatives, I sent multiple letters to the U.S. Postal Service and Postmaster General requesting a full review of the Postal Service's closing process, had senior staff from my congressional office attend public hearings on each of the proposed closures in our congressional district, and lead an effort to get more than 75 Members of Congress to sign a letter to the Postal Regulatory Commission requesting they stop closing post offices and work with Congress to help find a long-term solution that protects customers and ensures the longevity of the postal system. The letter argued "widespread post office closures is the wrong way to deal with the Postal Service's fiscal problems and could harm the Postal Service's competitiveness in the long run."
As a result, earlier this month, the U.S. Postal Service released its plans to keep rural post offices open, but with modified retail window hours to match customer use, in some cases. Access to PO Boxes would remain unchanged, and the town's ZIP Code and community identity would be retained. The new strategy will be implemented over a two-year, multi-phased approach and will not be completed until September 2014. Although this strategy reduces operating hours in some rural post offices across Arkansas, it also saves them from complete closure.
I am pleased with the U.S. Postal Service's decision to abandon its plan to close post offices in Arkansas, after multiple requests by me and other Members of Congress to halt the process. I'm glad postal officials have begun looking at other cost-cutting alternatives that do not result in the complete closure of our rural post offices.
While we have been successful in keeping our rural post offices open, we still must reform the U.S. Postal Service to ensure its financial stability and longevity. I have helped introduce a bill, H.R. 1351, to eliminate a requirement that the Postal Service pre-pay future retiree medical benefits, which is not required of any other federal agency. This common sense bill would save the Postal Service so much money that repealing this one requirement would give the agency a profit over the last four years.
H.R. 1351 will help to strengthen the U.S. Postal Service for generations to come. Passing this legislation will avoid drastic cuts in service, layoffs, and the unnecessary closure of post offices and mail processing facilities in the future.
I fought hard to stop the closing of post offices so that we can work together to find longer-term solutions that will reform the Postal Service while protecting people in rural areas and those on fixed incomes who depend on their post offices. As your Congressman, I will keep listening to you and fighting for you in our nation's capital on issues like this that are important to all of us.