Two area post offices scheduled for possible closure have been delayed — and now Congress holds the key to their fate.
Members of Congress and the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) officials agreed Tuesday to a five-month moratorium on a plan that would potentially close post office facilities.
Democratic U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown acclaimed the moratorium for the 120 post offices and 10 processing facilities in Ohio that have been targeted by the Postal Service as part of the proposed closure review.
“This moratorium is a win for Ohio consumers, Ohio businesses and Ohio workers,” Brown said Wed-nesday in a media teleconference. “Though the Postal Service faces serious challenges, this will provide time to reach a solution that will strengthen the USPS, instead of crippling it. It is vital that all Ohio residents and businesses receive the same level of service and access to their mail.”
The closure plan, which was initially announced in September, included halting operations at two post offices in Auglaize County. St. Johns and New Hampshire, had been targeted through the process.
Victoria Hemmert, the officer-in-charge at the St. Johns Post Office, said she is happy about the news.
“I’m glad,” Hemmert said. “I hope they get the approval they need to keep everything open.”
Hemmert said postal traffic at the St. Johns Post Office has been normal recently and has been keeping the office busy during the holiday season.
“I get to keep my job for a little bit longer,” Hemmert said.
Hemmert said the decision is in Congress’ hands.
A representative from the New Hampshire Post Office said all they knew about the situation is what they read in the media. They declined to comment.
During this interim period, Postal Service officials will follow required steps for the review of the posts, and this will allow Congress time to make a final decision, come springtime.
“Before the USPS hastily closes facilities, we should examine common-sense steps to strengthen the USPS by improving its fiscal solvency,” said Brown, who is a co-sponsor of the Postal Service Protection Act. “This legislation will address the Postal Service’s fiscal troubles while maintaining jobs and high-quality service in Ohio and throughout the nation.”
Brown’s proposed legislation would address the most immediate financial problem facing the USPS by eliminating the unique requirement that the postal service pre-fund 75 years worth of future retiree health benefits in just 10 years. This mandate costs USPS between $5.4 and $5.8 billion per year, and it accounts for 100 percent of the Postal Service’s $20 billion in losses from 2007-2008.
According to studies by the Hay Group and the Segal Company, the USPS has overpaid at least $50 billion into its pension plans. Because of these overpayments, USPS has been forced to subsidize retirement accounts for the entire Federal government. This bill would allow USPS to recover these pension overpayments to both fund its retiree health benefits and cover its operational expenses.
Postmaster General Patrick Donohue said on May 15 the fate of 252 mail processing centers and 3,700 local posts nationwide will be determined.