November 21, 2016

Udall Urges Congress to Make Changes to Improve and Protect U.S. Mail Service

WASHINGTON - U.S. Senator Tom Udall has joined over 80 members of Congress in signing a letter calling for provisions that improve and protect mail delivery and service to be added to the comprehensive U.S. Postal Service reform legislation that has been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives.

In many New Mexico communities, especially in rural areas, the post office is a meeting place and an anchor on Main Street. Udall has heard from many New Mexicans who have expressed concerns about rollbacks in postal service. In their letter to U.S. House and Senate leaders, Udall and his fellow lawmakers emphasized the need for better, more reliable mail service and solutions that can maintain higher service standards in the long term. The changes would address recent reductions in U.S Postal Service performance, such as the elimination of the overnight service standard, mail processing plant closures and post office hour reductions.

"While the importance of reliable mail delivery for customers, especially those living in rural areas, has not changed, the Postal Service's ability to perform that service has substantially declined, and it is critical that Congress take action on this topic when we consider comprehensive postal reform," the lawmakers wrote. "While the current service standard for First-Class Mail is 2-3 days, the actual delivery of mail can take far longer than this standard. This is unacceptable for postal customers in rural America and across the country, and it simply does not meet the requirement for universal quality of service by which the Postal Service is bound."

Udall added: "The U.S. Postal Service is an integral part of life in New Mexico's rural communities. And people in rural areas should be able to rely on timely, quality service, especially those in New Mexico without access to cell phone service or high-speed internet. I am committed to working on reforms that will ensure the long-term stability of the Postal Service, while providing essential, quality service to every part of New Mexico."

The letter requests that the following provisions be included in the U.S. House of Representatives' bipartisan Postal Reform Act of 2016 in order to strengthen mail service, improve delivery, and protect Postal Service customers:

-Continuing to review the fiscal state of the Postal Service to help it remain solvent - Provide regular updates of a long-term solvency plan that would analyze the Postal Service's finances and make recommendations regarding affordable service options.

-Making mail service and delivery more reliable - The Postal Service needs a performance target system to make sure measurements of mail delivery are accurate across the country in urban and rural communities through an in-depth classification system.

-Improving accountability and transparency at the Postal Service - Performance information must be published online and operational plans developed when mail service and delivery targets are not met.

-Boosting enforcement to make sure the Postal Service meets mail delivery and service standards - The Postal Service must take action to meet its operational plans and not be able to lower mail service standards to come into compliance with performance targets.

The full text of the letter from the U.S. Senators is copied below and can be found here, and the full text of the letter from the U.S. House of Representatives can be found here.

Dear Leader McConnell, Minority Leader Reid, Chairman Johnson, and Ranking Member Carper:

The United States Postal Service is a critical lifeline throughout our country, connecting loved ones and families, delivering prescription drugs and other critical items, and allowing our businesses to ship products all over the world. It is an institution that has been relied upon by the American postal customer for more than two hundred years. While the importance of reliable mail delivery for customers, especially those living in rural areas, has not changed, the Postal Service's ability to perform that service has substantially declined, and it is critical that Congress take action on this topic when we consider comprehensive postal reform.

From mail processing plant consolidations, to reductions in post office hours, to the complete elimination of the overnight service standard, rural America has been hit especially hard in recent years by degradations in mail service. While the current service standard for First-Class Mail is 2-3 days, the actual delivery of mail can take far longer than this standard. This is unacceptable for postal customers in rural America and across the country, and it simply does not meet the requirement for universal quality of service by which the Postal Service is bound.

While we are encouraged by the postal reform legislation Chairman Chaffetz and Ranking Member Cummings reported out of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform to improve the Postal Service's financial condition, we are deeply concerned by the lack of service improvements and protection provisions in the bill. For any comprehensive postal reform bill to have a chance of passing this Congress, it needs to truly address the key problem facing customers across the country, which is the need for better service performance.

The Postal Service's elimination of the overnight delivery standard in early 2015 had a sweeping impact on mail delivery and Postal employees' lives and jobs. This included further mail processing facility consolidations, equipment changes, added transportation costs, job relocations, and renegotiated contracts. The costs of going back to the July 2012 service standard would be significant and should be carefully and accurately examined. In the meantime, it is critical for us to focus our attention on improving service performance.

Service performance is a different issue than simply looking at the service standard. Service performance is what the postal customer experiences every day and represents the ability of the Postal Service to actually deliver mail between two points within the current 2-3 day standard. In order to ensure that the Postal Service is able to perform within this current standard, there must be an accurate understanding of how long it takes for mail to be delivered in rural and urban communities throughout the country. Such information allows Congress and the Postal Service to tackle the most pressing postal service problem at hand: the lack of adequate delivery performance under the current 2-3 day First-Class Mail service standard.

Any comprehensive postal legislation should include the following service protections and improvements in order to meet that challenge:
Reliability - The Postal Service needs a performance target system to ensure the accurate measurement of mail delivery across the country in urban and rural communities through an in-depth classification system.
Accountability & Transparency - Performance information must be published online and operational plans developed when targets are not met.
Enforcement - The Postal Service must take action to meet their operational plans and not be able to lower service standards to come into compliance with performance targets.
Continual Review - Development and regular updates of a long-term solvency plan that would analyze the Postal Service's finances and make recommendations regarding affordable service options.

These concepts are included in bipartisan postal legislation introduced in the Senate. Furthermore, those concepts strike a healthy balance between a complete return to July 2012 standards and addressing the service performance issues we face today.

The Postal Service and its employees play a vital role in our nation. It is essential that we preserve the Postal Service's commitment to the American public. For this reason, improving service needs to be a critical piece of any comprehensive postal reform bill, along with the needed reforms to return the Postal Service to fiscal sustainability. Continued poor mail service hurts rural America, businesses, and our economy. Congress should take action to preserve and protect the vibrant institution that is our Postal Service so it, in turn, can help our communities and families truly thrive.

Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,