Cuts to the U.S. Postal Service Have Disproportionately Hurt North Dakota’s Rural Communities, Where Reliable Mail and Internet Are Critical
August 20, 2015 WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp today announced that she is pressing for a study of the interaction between the lack of adequate high-speed wireless Internet access in rural areas and the reliability of U.S. Postal Service delivery. Heitkamp and U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri officially requested the study.
Forty percent of rural residents across North Dakota lack high-speed Internet, meaning many North Dakotans rely heavily on the Postal Service for their global connectivity. But as the Internet has become an alternative to traditional mail in more urban areas, the post office remains an integral center of rural communities. Heitkamp’s effort today follows her consistent work to hold the Postal Service accountable to North Dakota’s rural communities. Just last month, she introduced a bill to improve rural mail delivery and standards.
“Each town I visit across North Dakota echoes concern for the future of our rural post offices – and I make sure the voices of our communities are heard in the Senate as often as possible,” said Heitkamp. “Our state’s rural communities deserve a reliable and efficient Postal Service, especially since many rural residents depend on mail to stay connected. The Postal Service is a lifeline for those rural residents, and they have been disproportionately impacted by cuts and restructuring. I’ll keep pushing for comprehensive postal reform that stands up for rural America in the Senate, and studies like the one I’m requesting to take a closer look at Postal Service reliability and high-speed Internet access will lay the groundwork for the reforms rural communities need.”
Heitkamp’s Rural Postal Bill includes a study and a pilot project in which rural post offices act as centers for delivering high-speed Internet services to rural communities that could benefit most.
Long a champion for keeping rural lines of communication strong, Heitkamp has fought to strengthen North Dakota postal delivery during her time in the U.S. Senate and in her leadership position on the Senate Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs Committee, which oversees the U.S. Postal Service:
- In July, Heitkamp introduced a bill to improve postal standards in rural communities like those throughout North Dakota, as rural communities have been disproportionately impacted by changes to the mail. The bill restores strong overnight July 2012 service standards, places a two-year moratorium on the closure of additional mail processing plants, makes six-day delivery permanent, protects rural post offices from unnecessary closures or reductions in hours, and includes a number of provisions to make sure all families and businesses have high-quality mail service, regardless of where they live.
- Heitkamp’s bill builds off her leadership in the Senate. In May, Heitkamp brought together the first bipartisan meeting of solely rural-state Senators to meet with U.S. Postmaster General Megan Brennan about the impacts of mail processing facility closures and service standard reductions, and secured a commitment from the Postal Service to work better to meet the needs of rural America. Later that month, Heitkamp co-hosted a Senate roundtable discussion on rural postal issues, calling on leaders in the postal community to work with her to protect delivery and service in rural America.
- During congressional hearings and in letters to government officials, Heitkamp has been a vocal advocate for postal reform efforts. Heitkamp and Senator John Tester of Montana requested an in-depth study of rural mail delivery in May 2015. Since 2011, one-third in North Dakota’s and two-thirds of Montana’s mail processing facilities have been closed, increasing delivery times for First-Class Mail and virtually eliminating overnight mail delivery in much of the region.
- Heitkamp launched her Fix My Mail initiative in January 2014 to gather feedback from North Dakotans across the state who face challenges every day in getting their mail. She received more than 200 stories from North Dakotans about problems with mail delivery and service.
- After sharing Fix My Mail stories with the Postal Service, Heitkamp received commitments from the agency to improve mail service and delivery in the state, including keeping more hours of operation at 30 rural post offices in North Dakota. Because of those stories, Heitkamp also requested a Postal Service Office of Inspector General review of postal standards and employee issues in North Dakota, which found serious problems with mail delivery and standards in the state.