This holiday season, Ohioans will receive scores of gifts — from Great Lakes beer to Cincinnati chili — but many of the parcels probably won’t be dropped off by their local postal carrier.
The United States Postal Service (USPS) — the second-largest employer in the United States and one authorized by the U.S. Constitution — is governed by rules that limit its financial viability. To address a growing deficit, more than 120 post offices and 10 mail processing centers in Ohio have been slated for possible closure because of financial challenges.
These closures could prove costly for middle-class families in our state, resulting in job losses and deteriorated service. That is why I fought for a moratorium on all postal facility closures until May 2012. With this additional time, Congress can modernize the rules and usher in the next era of the USPS.
Private delivery companies perform an important service. But the Post Office should be able to compete for all the parcel business, too. That’s why I’m fighting to pass the Postal Service Protection Act, legislation that would help bring the USPS back to fiscal solvency.
First, it would deal with the USPS’s fiscal challenges. This bill would address a broken pension system which currently costs the USPS more than $5 billion every year. Right now, the Postal Service must pre-fund 75 years of future retiree health care benefits in just 10 years. With this legislation, we can address immediate fiscal problems facing the USPS by overhauling the USPS retiree benefit requirements.
Second, it would allow the Post Office to innovate. By easing current financial constraints on the agency, the USPS would have additional avenues to earn income — like shipping beer or issuing a state fishing license – that can put the Postal Service back on the road to fiscal health.
The legislation would also protect a six-day delivery — preserving Saturday delivery and maintaining current standards for first-class mail delivery. This is vitally important for seniors and patients who depend on timely delivery of life-saving prescription medications.
With any postal reform legislation Congress considers, we must take into account what affect these decisions will have on America’s recovering economy. What would inaction mean for Ohio families?
Postal workers — many of them veterans, women, and rural residents — do more than deliver holiday cards and news from home. They also watch out for elderly neighbors, and help build a sense of community. Since 1775, the USPS has kept Americans connected with one another and the rest of the world.
Our state ranks eighth in the nation for the number of USPS employees — including letter carriers and sorters — who help Ohioans cash checks, obtain passports, and operate small businesses. We must help the USPS, a self-supporting government entity, adapt to the challenges of the 21st century.
A robust Post Office means that small businesses and non-profits have reliable and affordable means to conduct their business. It means that the shopping centers and small businesses in urban areas — which, in many cases, are anchored by the presence of a post office — can continue to thrive. It also ensures that seniors can receive their mail-order prescriptions and Social Security checks without delay.
The motto of the Post Office: “neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night” dates back to antiquity. The Greek letter carriers likely faced unleashed dogs — though not email. Yet I’m confident that we can and must overcome the challenges faced by the USPS. This is our promise to our neighborhood postal worker, our neighbors, and our communities.
Sherrod Brown is a United States Senator from Ohio.