The Postal Service has announced the closure of over 3,000 post offices across the country. All of the 21 post offices being considered for closure in Oregon are in rural and small towns. The Postal Service’s rationale behind the closures is that these offices are not “self-sustaining.” In fact, no Oregon Post Office is self-sustaining, yet no urban offices are being considered for closure. Why are rural post offices on the chopping block? What would be the impact on rural communities?
Congress bankrupted the Postal Service.
This is a manufactured financial crisis. In 2006, Congress passed the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act which requires the Postal Service to do something that no other business or government agency has to do: pre-fund its FUTURE retiree health care benefits.
This is the next chapter in the deprioritizing and defunding of our shared wealth. The story is too common these days – we cripple a vital public necessity, then we point at it in blame when it buckles. The Post Office has excessively funded the Civil Service Retirement System by at least $50 billion dollars, and the Federal Employees Retirement System around $7 billion dollars. Without paying $5.5 billion into future retiree benefits annually, the Postal Service would be profiting and these closures would not have been proposed.
Should rural Oregon pay?
The Postal Service is looking to replace closed post offices with contracted, private Village Post Offices that only offer 3 of the 36 services full Post Offices provide. Many of the small towns facing closures do not and will not have local businesses to host Village Post Offices.
The economies of these rural towns depend on their post office. Where will small and locally owned small businesses do their mailing? Where will farmers and ranchers mail their samples for testing?
Many of the people who frequent these vital rural post offices do so because door-to-door delivery isn’t available. For many, the roundtrip distance to the closest post office exceeds 50 miles on dangerous roads. Those who cannot drive for ability or economic reasons will not be able to receive their prescription medications. In most communities it is the only federal building and as such it is a distribution point for resources and paperwork from the IRS, Social Security, USDA, and more.
Post offices serve a greater purpose than receiving and sending mail; they are the heart and soul of the whole community.
“The post office is where neighbors meet and discuss events that affect their town or just get together and see how everyone is doing,” said Doug Gray, a retired Postmaster for Tangent. “The Post Office becomes the identity of the community. Postmasters are asked to be the eyes for our vision-impaired neighbors and read letters and cards for them. We are asked to fill out money orders so that these customers may pay their bills. If we have handicapped customers, we will take packages and stamps to their car. There is more to a rural Post Office that just selling stamps.”
Rural communities lose their identities without Post Offices
In the spirit of our rural values of community, productivity, independence, and self-reliance, we will protect our post offices. We need to stand together as rural Oregonians to demand that our post offices remain open as they are essential to our communities’ longevity.
Monday, December 19th from 8AM-5PM, we will Occupy Our Post Office with signs, banners, and holiday spirit to demonstrate our commitment to our community’s health, even when a vital resource “fails to show a profit.”
December 19th is the busiest day during the holiday season for our post offices. We will be there to have our community write letters and Christmas cards to our Senators and Representatives telling them that we WILL NOT stand idle as the federal government dismantles our communities! Furthermore, we are there to support our support and in no way interfere with the normal operations of our rural post offices.
This event will give every community the opportunity to express to all of Oregon the deep desire to keep the local rural office open and as-is. This awareness is critical to legislation to preserve our rural identity, which is our last chance to save our post office.
Joining together in a unified statewide action ensures that we raise awareness through media attention. Each community has the need to have the local media cover this event. The media has the opportunity to provide an avenue of expression for each rural community.
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We have many serious concerns, among them are:
· - The sanctity of the mail
· - Voting by mail
· - The overall dramatic adverse impact on our local businesses and communities as a whole
· - Hardship to the citizens with limited or no transportation who have special medical needs
· - The inconvenience sending and delivering mail, particularly accountable mail
We have been and continue to collectively and actively take measures to ensure the law and pertinent regulations are followed in the preservation of our rura l Post Offices. We have gone through the proper channels with the Postal Service to retain our Post Office, but we are still facing immanent closure as soon as May 15, 2012.
The only way vital rural Oregon Post Offices will be saved is through national legislation.
We ask that you, as representatives of rural Oregon:
- Fix the Postal Service’s financial crisis that was created by Congress in 2006.
- Do not sacrifice vital community infrastructure under the guide of a “10-mile rule compromise.”