Heitkamp Intros Bill to Improve Rural Mail Delivery

Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (above) of North Dakota yesterday introduced a bill aiming to hold the U.S. Postal Service to its universal service obligations in rural outposts. Heitkamp, along with co-sponsors Jon Tester of Montana and Claire McCaskill of Missouri, has long been vocal about poor rural delivery standards in hearings of the Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs Committee.

A press release from Heitkamp’s office claimed just 65% of non-local mail arrived on time within three to five days last quarter, well below the Postal Service’s 88% rate for the nation as a whole. Heitkamp also wants to stem the flood of rural post office closings, noting that nearly 400 were shuttered between 2001 and 2013.

Heitkamp’s legislation would, among other things:

  • Restore stronger service standards and place a two-year moratorium on the closure of additional mail processing plants;
  • preserve six-day mail delivery; and
  • protect rural Post Offices from closures, set down procedures for reducing operating hours, and enable communities to petition the Postal Service on both issues.

“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,” said Heitkamp in introducing the bill. “My common sense bill aims to address the needs of rural families and postal employees, and will make an honest difference in rural communities across North Dakota.”

Postal reform advocate Tom Carper, the former chairman and now-ranking member of Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs, applauded the efforts of Heitkamp and other members of the committee.

I am encouraged that a number of my colleagues, led by Senator Heitkamp, are taking steps to address…the serious service issues affecting our nation’s rural communities,” said Carper in a statement. “As my colleagues and I have heard through numerous committee hearings and countless conversations with postal customers, stakeholders, and management, service in rural communities is suffering. It’s clear that we must help the Postal Service get better in this area.”

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