Franken: Congress working to preserve rural mail delivery
WILLMAR -- Congress has until May 15 to work out a plan to keep regional mail processing centers and rural post offices open.
Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., said Thursday afternoon that he and other senators are working to prevent the negative impact on families and businesses that could result from the closings.
The idea of closing processing centers and post offices came up last fall, the fallout of financial problems at the U.S. Postal Service. The Postal Service also suggested dropping Saturday delivery and ending the guarantee of delivery within one to three days on first-class mail.
Franken spoke to Minnesota reporters in a conference call Thursday.
He was joined by Reed Anfinson, publisher of the Swift County Monitor News in Benson and president of the National Newspaper Association.
When the potential closings were announced last fall, lawmakers asked for a moratorium on final decisions, and that ends on May 15, Franken said.
By then, he said, he hopes that senators will have succeeded in developing a plan that can ease the Postal Service's financial burdens to maintain six-day delivery and rural postal service.
Franken acknowledged that passing legislation by May 15 could be difficult. "We're in a difficult period budgetarily."
However, he believes that there's a bipartisan feeling in Congress that the Postal Service needs to be preserved. Every senator and many members in the House serve rural areas and understand the potential impact, he said.
Anfinson said mail service is essential for community newspapers across the country. Television stations and internet news outlets don't really serve rural areas, he said.
Community newspapers are the ones that "tell people what the impact of government is on their lives and their pocketbooks," he said. "We believe that a post office that delivers in a timely fashion is essential for newspapers and commerce."
For people who get their prescriptions in the mail, having to drive 30 miles to a post office could be a real hardship, he said. And businesses might be more reluctant to locate in rural areas if the mail service isn't reliable.
Closing facilities and increasing delivery time could lead to fewer people using postal services, and could result in a "downward spiral," Franken said.
"The Post Office is in the Constitution," he said. "It's been around since the beginning of our country. ... We all have to remember our values."
Some post offices in the area are being reviewed for possible closure. They include Sunburg, Watson, Hanley Falls, Clontarf, Danvers, Holloway, Correll and Porter. The processing center in St. Cloud is also under review.