Chairman Collins Concerned About Impact of Postal Service Recommendations on Rural Communities

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Senate Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Susan Collins (R-ME) today praised the Presidential Commission on the U.S. Postal Service for tackling a difficult challenge, but expressed concern over the potential impact proposed postal service reforms would have on rural communities.

During today’s hearing on the 181-page report prepared by the Commission, Collins said, “I greatly appreciate the Commission’s strong endorsement of the basic features of universal service—affordable rates, frequent delivery, and convenient community access to retail postal services. It is important to me that the people of Maine have adequate access to postal services wherever they choose to live.

“If the Postal Service were no longer to provide universal service and deliver mail to every customer, the affordable communication link upon which many Americans rely would be jeopardized. Most commercial enterprises would find it uneconomical, if not impossible, to deliver mail and packages to rural Americans at rates that the Postal Service has been offering.

“The preservation of universal service, and many more issues, must be examined in depth if we are to save and strengthen this vital service upon which so many Americans rely for communication and their livelihoods,” Collins said.

The Postal Service is the 11th largest enterprise in the nation. It employs more than 700,000 career employees, and is also the linchpin of a $900 billion mailing industry that employees nine million Americans in diverse fields. However, the Postal Service is presently paying down $6.5 billion in debt to the U.S. Treasury, and its long-term liabilities are enormous—nearly $6 billion for Workers’ Compensation claims, $5 billion for retirement costs, and as much as $45 billion to cover retiree health care costs.

“It is so important for us to consider what can and should be done to ensure the Postal Service’s future viability,” said Collins. “The Postal Service has reached a critical juncture. It is time for a thorough evaluation of its operations and requirements. It is time for action.”

Last year, Collins introduced the United States Postal Service Commission Act of 2002, which would establish a Presidential Commission to examine the challenges facing the Postal Service and to develop solutions to ensure its long-term viability and increased efficiency. A few months later, President Bush announced that he would create such a panel.