Weekly Columns

A song written and recorded by Elvis Presley in the early 1960s tells the story of a man who mails a letter to his girlfriend only to get it back with ‘return to sender’ written on it. You’ve probably heard the familiar catchy tune. Correspondence through the mail is engrained in our culture. Many of us have saved letters and cards sent to us by loved ones through the years. 

Today, instead of sending our messages through the mail, we text, email, and utilize social media to communicate.  While our methods of communication have changed, the U.S. Postal Service has done little to update its services with the changing times. This is one reason why the Postal Service is broke and losing $23 million each day. 

The amount of mail the Postal Service processes is in a steady decline. Since 2006, the volume of first-class mail has fallen by 26 percent. This steep drop is reflected in billion dollars losses. In a five year period from 2006 to 2011, revenue fell from $72.8 billion to $65.7 billion. The deep financial hole has forced the Postal Service to make drastic cuts and proposals that come at the expense of the needs of Arkansans. 

Last summer more than 180 post offices throughout our state were on the Postal Service’s list to be studied for closure. Like many of you, I had concerns about this drastic step. I believe Arkansas's rural communities were unfairly targeted and little to no thought was given as to how these customers can continue to utilize its services. Widespread closures of rural post offices will do little to help the Postal Service balance its books. 

In rural communities, post offices serve more than just as a place to get the mail. These are centers of the community where people go to stay connected with their neighbors. In addition these serve as a lifeline for seniors who get their medicine through the mail and help industry conduct business. 

It is clear that the USPS needs options for reform that’s why I was happy to support a Senate plan for modernization. The 21st Century Postal Act is bipartisan legislation that gives good guidance to getting the USPS back on its feet and offering options for reform without cutting practical access to a post office. 

This legislation places a one-year moratorium on closures of rural post offices and requires the Postal Service to consider the demographics of the customers who use the facility in addition to transportation limitations of the people who rely on its services for each post office. The bill also encourages the USPS to work with the community for an alternative solution to elimination of the facility. This provides the Postal Service with the flexibility to move a post office within a local store or share space with another government agency. 

On April 25, the 21st Century Postal Act overwhelmingly passed the Senate.  I joined 61 of my colleagues who voted in favor of the bill.  It now moves to the U.S. House of Representatives for consideration.

In rural states like Arkansas, small communities rely upon the existence of the post office.  I support this effort to ensure Arkansans have the best access to mail delivery.