By CHAD ABSHIRE
U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.) introduced legislation late Thursday to “strengthen the hand of rural communities in fighting post office closures in southern West Virginia,” a press release from his office stated.
“For more than 200 years, America’s postal system has helped to bind us together as a nation,” Rahall, who has been vocal and active in fighting postal closures in southern West Virginia, said. “When one looks at the hit list of targeted postal closures, it becomes clear how those closures could unravel our nation’s tight-knit fabric of commerce and communication.
“The bill I have introduced aims to help ensure that our small, rural postal facilities are not made to bear the brunt of the Postal Service’s nationwide budgetary challenges.”
According to the press release, H.R. 4335, the Postal Service Accountability Act, would strengthen the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC), the independent regulator of the Postal Service, enabling it to act as a check on postal closures, directing the Commission to focus on the community impact of a closure.
As part of the appeals process, which already exists in current law, the measure would give the PRC a binding authority to block a post office or sorting facility closure, and would increase, from two to three, the number of Commissioners needed to affirm a closure. Currently, PRC opinions are nonbinding and only two Commissioners are necessary to affirm a closure because of a vacancy on the Commission.
It also would apply the revised appeals process to postal sorting facilities. Currently, there is no appeals process for mail processing facilities. In addition to that, the Postal Service would be required to do an after-the-fact review one year after a closure to ensure mail delivery services have been maintained.
The Postal Service has implemented a moratorium on postal closures through May 15. The House of Representatives is scheduled to consider postal reform legislation later this year to address the Postal Service’s financial problems.
“Our residents and small businesses rely on the Postal Service for basic mail necessities – for sending bills and packages, newspaper deliveries, and reaching customers – especially in our more rural areas where internet access is limited,” Rahall said. “Cutting off services to rural areas simply is not an option. It’s not an option for seniors who need their mail-order drugs. It’s not an option for towns where the post office serves as the heart of the community.”
“These closures will disrupt lives and local economies and there needs to be a better mechanism in place to ensure that those concerns are addressed.”