By CHAD ABSHIRE
U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) joined a bipartisan group of 43 senators in a letter yesterday, urging the U.S. Postal Service to extend its current moratorium on post office closures until after a postal reform bill is signed into law.
The current moratorium is scheduled to expire on May 15.
“Communities across West Virginia and the nation are facing great uncertainty about the future of their post offices,” Manchin said. “Right now there are 3,700 post offices that could face closure nationwide when the current moratorium expires, including 150 in West Virginia.
A total of four post offices in Mingo County and five in Logan County face the threat of being shut down.
“In our rural areas, these post offices are more than just places to send and receive mail - they are truly the lifelines of their communities and the only way a town is able to stay connected,” Manchin said. “I will continue doing everything in my power to ensure that the Postal Service does not balance its books on the backs of our rural communities.”
The USPS is currently facing a shortfall of $20 billion. A press release from Manchin’s office stated that closing 3,700 post offices “would only save the Postal Service $200 million, which is one percent of what is needed to get their finances in order and is about the same amount of money we spend in one day in Afghanistan.”
In April, the Senate passed the 21st Century Postal Service Act to address the deficit facing the USPS. Manchin did not support the bill “because it did not do enough to prevent the closure of 3,700 postal facilities nationwide or to protect 35,000 jobs at mail processing facilities across the country that could also close,” his release stated.
Instead, Manchin offered an amendment that would have prohibited any of these facilities from closing for two years, but the amendment failed 43-53.
He has also suggested cost-saving measures to the USPS to achieve savings in ways that would not affect services, “including eliminating excess rental space, cutting executive compensation, and reducing advertising expenditures on luxuries like sponsorship of a NASCAR team and a Tour de France team,” his release stated.
The 21st Century Postal Service Act included a provision offered by Sens. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), co-sponsored by Manchin, which prohibited rural post offices from closing for one year.
“While the Postal Service reform bill that passed the Senate is by no means perfect, it does offer some measure of protection to our rural post offices - guaranteeing that they will be able to stay open for at least one year — and that’s better than nothing,” Manchin said. “We need to provide some assurance that our postal facilities won’t be forced to close their doors before the Postal Service reform bill is signed into law.”
The 21st Century Postal Service Act has yet to receive any action from the House of Representatives.