US Postal Service to Close Half of Country’s Current Post Offices

The Cora Wyoming Post Office is in danger of being closed as are at least 7 more within Wyoming and 2,000 others across the country.

Closing small post offices is a popular measure because it gives the impression this is a cost saving measure. According to the Postal Regulatory Commission, the smallest post offices, which are a third of all post offices, account for less than seven tenths of one percent of the total cost of the USPS. That is less than one percent of all operating costs for the entire Postal system. This does not indicate much, if any, savings.

Since 1970, 4,770 post offices in rural areas have been closed, simply because they were deemed unnecessary. Currently, there is a restriction against closing post offices only for economic reasons. However, Senate Bill S.3831 would eliminate that restriction and would also eliminate the requirement that the Postal Service consider how closure of a post office would affect the community.

An audit by the Office of Inspector General determined that the Postal Service should consolidate its own management structure, which includes 8 area offices and 74 district offices. These offices cost postal patrons $1.5 billion per year, three times more than the cost of operating all the rural post offices. The Postal Inspector General has indicated that closing and consolidating these administrative offices could save more than $800 million over ten years, without the public being impacted.

The Postal Service has the most benefits of any branch of government and employees pay the least for those benefits. In addition, the Postal Service is required to pre-fund retiree health benefits for ten years which come to $5 billion per year. This pre-funding started in 2007 and is contributing greatly to the short-fall to the bottom line of the Postal Service.

The Postal Service claims the Internet is to blame for lack of revenue, yet some of the rural areas where post offices have been closed do not have Internet access. While the Postal Service is primarily funded by the sale of postage, it has only been so since 1971. It still receives taxpayer dollars for some services.

Last year, 491 post offices were closed across the nation. This year another 2,000 are planned to be closed and they’re looking at closing another 16,000, which is half of the country’s post offices. As of 2010, there were 36,400 post offices and 177 billion pieces of mail delivered annually. For every cent increase in fuel costs, the USPS pays an extra $8 billion. In 2009 the USPS used 4.4 million gallons of gas. This brings into question the wisdom of central processing and distribution centers. There are 275 of these across the nation, each pulling mail from a radius of 200 miles. In many communities this means a letter mailed to someone in that community must travel to another community to be sorted, then returned and delivered. This multiple handling of each piece of mail increases cost of transportation and payroll for additional workers to operate and maintain the machines that do the actual sorting.

Citizens in communities losing post offices feel they are being discriminated against. They also feel they are being punished for mismanagement on the part of USPS. One area that is particularly disturbing is that rural areas tend to use their post offices more than just for first class mail. They tend to order more magazines and packages and often use the post office as a gathering place. Births and deaths are posted there, as well as ads for people looking for work. This is a point that the Postal Service appears to have overlooked in every closure. They have also repeatedly overlooked how far the residents of these communities have to travel to get their mail once their post office is closed. Post Offices to be closed must be within 20 miles of another. However, this does not take into account that many residents do not live next door to the post office. Residents may be 20, 30, or more miles from the current post office and closing it because it’s somewhat close to another doesn’t take into account the additional miles postal patrons have to travel or the cost of that extra travel.

In instances where a post office must be closed, transparency should be part of the process. Concrete, factual justification should be provided and input from those who would be affected seriously considered. This is not happening, not just in Cora, Wyoming, but all over the United States in rural areas.