Senate Passes Bipartisan Bennet Amendment to Give Local Rural Communities an Advocate in Closure Proceedings

Postal Reform Bill Aims to Create U.S. Postal Service Solvency With Modernizations While Maintaining Service

Latest Bennet Effort to Protect Postal Service for Rural Coloradans

The U.S. Senate today passed a bipartisan amendment by Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet, along with Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO), to the postal reform bill to arm local rural communities facing post office or postal processing facility closures with an advocate in the process. The amendment was adopted with broad bipartisan support.

“The Postal Service plays a critical role in our rural communities through services, such as the delivery of prescriptions to seniors and providing local businesses access to the broader market place. As the Postal Service continues to consider the closure of a number of post offices in Colorado and across the country, it is vital that rural communities have their voices heard and have open communication with the Postal Service,” said Bennet. “This amendment will give communities the representation and respect they deserve throughout these proceedings and ensure the Postal Service remains accountable and accessible throughout the process.”

Specifically, Bennet’s amendment to the postal reform bill would allow for the appointment of a non-paid advocate to represent rural communities facing a post office or postal processing facility closure or consolidation. The advocate would represent the community’s interests in closure proceedings and provide for greater collaboration between the Postal service and local communities to explore opportunities to strengthen services and possibly reduce costs. This provision would improve communication between the United States Postal Service (USPS) and the community. The unpaid representative would have access to documents, data and reports related to the proposed closure.

The advocate would have the authority to appeal a final decision on closure to the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC) if there is concern the closure would hurt service standards.

Under current law, the USPS is only required to hold one community meeting during the required minimum 120-day period in which a closure is considered. This amendment would ensure that the voices of the community are heard throughout the process.

This is the latest of Bennet’s efforts to protect postal service for rural Coloradans. Last month, Bennet and Senator Mark Udall, along with 25 other Senators, sent a letter to the Senate panel that oversees the USPS to call for “significant improvements” to the postal reform bill to preserve First-Class and Saturday mail delivery, protect service for rural communities and spare 220,000 jobs that could be lost.

In December, the Colorado senators successfully pushed for a moratorium on the closing or consolidation of area mail processing facilities and rural post offices to give Congress time to address the USPS’s financial problems through comprehensive reform. In November, they wrote a letter to Senate committee leaders urging them to consider western states and rural communities when exploring potential reforms to the USPS. In the letter, the senators outlined priorities for reform that encourage innovation, take creative approaches to existing assets and maintain the competitive edge.

Earlier last year, Bennet and Udall sent a letter to the U.S. Postmaster General expressing concern over USPS location closures and consolidations that could make it more difficult for Coloradans to send letters and mail packages. They also sent a letter to Ruth Goldway, chairwoman of the Postal Regulatory Commission, urging the Postal Regulatory Commission to carefully consider the effects of possible postal service closures on rural areas and small towns in Colorado and across the country.

The postal reform bill, known also as the 21st Century Postal Service Act, aims to address the immediate financial strain and long-term solvency of the USPS by enacting reforms that modernize and streamline the postal service while striving to maintain high service standards.