U.S. Rep. McSally Leads Bipartisan Effort to Call for Updated Postal Plan
TUCSON – U.S. Representative Martha McSally today led a bipartisan group of 33 lawmakers to inquire about the United States Postal Service’s progress on revisiting plans to potentially consolidate mail processing centers around the country, including the Cherrybell Postal Processing Center in Tucson. Rep. McSally has led ongoing advocacy efforts for the continued operation of Cherrybell.
“Our constituents, many of whom are seniors, veterans, active voters and small business owners, depend upon reliable, timely service, whether it be traditional mail services or package delivery,” the lawmakers wrote in a letter to Postmaster General Megan Brennan. “As such, we find these closures and consolidations and the slowed mail delivery times that accompany them to be of great concern.”
In the letter, the lawmakers highlight language contained in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2016 that encourages the Postal Service to update the feasibility studies used to propose consolidating processing centers around the country. The legislation containing that language was signed into law on December 18, 2015.
“More concerning is the fact that the Postal Service did not fully engage communities about the impacts of these changes and the USPS Office of Inspector General found that portions of the Area Mail Processing (AMP) feasibility studies were incomplete for Phase 2 of NRI,” the lawmakers continued. “We were extremely pleased to see the inclusion of this report language and request an update on what steps USPS has taken to carry out the Congressional direction included in the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2016.”
Last year, Rep. McSally participated in a roundtable with Councilmember Richard Fimbres and local leaders to coordinate local and federal efforts in support of the Cherrybell Facility’s continued operation. Rep. McSally also toured the Cherrybell Processing Facility and led a bipartisan effort by members of the Arizona delegation to call on Postmaster General Megan Brennan to revisit decisions that would consolidate operations at the Cherrybell Facility and see the facility’s impacts first-hand.
A key concern is the impact the shuttering of Cherrybell could have on local elections, as an increasing number of voters are making use of mail-in ballots. In a Dec. 9 letter to Rep. McSally, Pima County’s Recorder expressed concern that the possible closure of Cherrybell could potentially disenfranchise voters because of the delay in processing ballots. “My office alone will be mailing more than 1 million ballots in 2016 and we can expect several hundred thousand of those ballots to be voted and returned by mail,” wrote F. Ann Rodriguez. “The speed at which the postal service processes the ballots is often critical in giving the voters the opportunity to participate in elections.”
In Washington, D.C., Rep. McSally has met with the Deputy Postmaster General Ronald Stroman and the Chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on Government Operations, which handles postal issues in the House, to stress the importance of the Cherrybell facility to Southern Arizonans.
A PDF of the letter can be found HERE.
The full letter text follows.
Megan J. Brennan
United States Postal Service
475 L’Enfant Plaza, SW
Washington, DC 20260
Dear Postmaster General Brennan:
The United States Postal Service (USPS) currently faces a grim long-term financial outlook. In November 2015, the Postal Service reported a net loss of $5.1 billion for Fiscal Year 2015, marking the ninth year in a row that USPS ended its fiscal year in the red. These losses are driven by the long-term pension and healthcare liabilities. On the other side of the coin, USPS has posted operating profits over the past two years, $1.4 billion in Fiscal Year 2014 and $1.2 billion in Fiscal Year 2015. This shows that under the right circumstances, stable fiscal footing can be returned to the Postal Service without taking on new areas of business that diverge from the agency's core mission.
In order to address many of the problems USPS currently faces, enactment of legislation by Congress is required. While several reform proposals have been introduced by members of both the House and Senate in this Congress and in the past, until this point, those efforts have stalled. In the absence of Congressional action on difficult issues, such as making the retiree health benefit system more affordable, USPS has taken it upon itself to find solutions to these annual operating deficits. However, in doing so, the Postal Services Network Rationalization Initiatives (NRI) have initiated sweeping changes to its operations, particularly plant closings and consolidations that have already occurred at 141 mail-processing centers across the United States and will affect dozens more.
While First-Class and Standard Mail has steadily declined over the past decade, eCommerce has fostered package delivery growth for USPS. The expansive delivery network the Postal Service possesses provides it an advantage and unique capability of delivering millions of packages the “last mile.” Our constituents, many of whom are seniors, veterans, active voters and small business owners, depend upon reliable, timely service, whether it be traditional mail services or package delivery. As such, we find these closures and consolidations and the slowed mail delivery times that accompany them to be of great concern. More concerning is the fact that the Postal Service did not fully engage communities about the impacts of these changes and the USPS Office of Inspector General found that portions of the Area Mail Processing (AMP) feasibility studies were incomplete for Phase 2 of NRI.
The Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2016 included the following language:
On May 27, 2015, the Postal Service announced its decision to defer most of the mail processing plant consolidations scheduled to take place in summer 2015 as the final stage of its Network Rationalization Initiative. The Postal Service is encouraged to update the Area Mail Processing feasibility studies for these plants using the most recent available data in advance of implementing the proposed consolidations.
We were extremely pleased to see the inclusion of this report language and request an update on what steps USPS has taken to carry out the Congressional direction included in the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2016. In addition, please include an update of actions USPS intends to take this year regarding possible future consolidations or closures of the mail processing infrastructure. Please provide a response by March 17, 2016.