By U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill
So often, it’s tough to see how votes taken in Congress will actually affect the day-to-day lives of folks outside of Washington. But having been born and raised in rural Missouri, I know there’s at least one issue being debated right now that hits home for families and businesses in towns across our state.
Last year, the head of the U.S. Postal Service told Congress that he wanted to turn out the lights, board up the windows, and eliminate good-paying jobs at more than 3,000 post offices across the country as part of a larger plan to cut costs. And as the debate has gone on, it’s become clear that too many leaders in Washington just don’t get what it means to be from rural America. And yet, many are eager to shut down post offices in rural communities in every corner of the country, no matter the lost jobs and business opportunities, or the consequences for these small towns.
I decided that I wasn’t going to give up our rural post offices without a fight. And I’m happy to report that fight is paying off.
Last week, after intensive debate, the Senate gave broad, bipartisan approval to my plan to save rural post offices—a plan that consists of a one-year total ban on closures, and stringent rules after that time to restrict when the Postal Service can close a rural post office.
My plan, which won passage as an amendment to broader postal reform legislation, is a huge win for small towns in Missouri—but we’re not out of the woods yet. There are still some in Washington who want to balance the books on the backs of folks in rural Missouri. So as the U.S. House of Representatives prepares to take up postal reform in the weeks ahead, I’m asking Missourians to stand with me for my plan that protects rural post offices.
We were successful in the Senate because, alongside other Senators from rural states, I worked hard to make my colleagues understand what rural post offices mean for families, businesses and — in the broadest sense—communities. These buildings are more than just brick and mortar. They’re a source of jobs in small towns hard-hit by economic challenges, a lifeline for seniors who depend on the mail for life-saving prescription drugs, and a shipping location for small business owners and job-creators. They’re also a gathering place where neighbors come together and build the bonds that make for strong relationships and stronger communities.
In short, our post offices are the lifeblood of our rural communities.
We were successful in passing my amendment because we had the facts on our side. The Postal Service is looking to save $20 billion through major reforms. But the costs of running rural post offices amounts to just one percent of the Postal Service budget. And shutting down every rural post office in America, from coast-to-coast, would produce less than one percent of the savings we’re looking for. With other major reforms taking place, we may learn pretty quickly that closing rural post offices isn’t even necessary, because the other reforms will be adequate to make the Postal Service profitable again. Meanwhile, small towns losing their post offices would lose good-paying jobs, access to medicines, and business opportunities for crucial job-creators in those communities.
Put simply: the cost to rural Missouri of losing our local post offices just isn’t worth it. So, over the coming weeks, I plan to keep up my fight to ensure these post offices stay open—because I know what it means for Missouri. I know I won’t be fighting alone.
U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill was born in Rolla, Mo. and serves on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, which has jurisdiction over the Postal Service.