Could the Postal Service Reform Act bring local changes to postal issues?

Senator Michael Benett wrote a letter to key USPS officials, advocating for prioritization of USPS Colorado’s top service challenges as the agency rolls out the Postal Service Reform Act over the next decade.
Ali Longwell / Vail Daily Archive

In the spring, the Postal Service Reform Act was signed into law, bringing a $107 billion overhaul along with promises of increased transparency and financial stability to the federal agency.

At the time of its passage through the U.S. Senate, state and Eagle County leaders expressed hope that the law would create much-needed change in local post offices.

And now, as the Postal Service figures out how to use the cost savings — estimated at $45 billion over the next 10 years — realized through the reform law, Sen. Michael Bennet has written a letter. to Postmaster General Louis DeJoy and Postal Regulatory Commission Chairman Michael Kubayada, advocating for funds to be used to address issues within Colorado communities.

“As you plan for the cost savings and transparency measures of the Postal Service Reform Act, it is imperative that the U.S. Postal Service seize this opportunity to improve on-time deliveries, service and operations,” said writes Bennett.

Bennet then asks DeJoy and Kubayada to prioritize three “deficiencies” in service across Colorado and the country. This includes reducing mail delivery delays, reducing barriers to receiving mail within communities without home delivery, and improving third-party fulfillment.

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According to an aide to Bennett, these “specific concerns” were brought to the senator’s attention at various meetings held between his office, local communities and regional Postal Service representatives. The first such meeting took place in February this year, and meetings continued throughout the first half of the year.

These meetings gave Colorado’s mountain communities — including several in Eagle County — an opportunity “to voice their concerns” as well as a chance for the Postal Service to hear them, the aide said, adding that there had been positive results “in part because of our advocacy at these meetings. This, the aide said, specifically includes Buena Vista residents receiving free post office boxes beginning in 2023.

Colorado/Wyoming District Office staff have exercised care and attention in addressing these and other concerns raised by local communities,” Bennet wrote in the letter.

Although those regional meetings have ceased since mid-year, Bennett’s aide said the senator’s team “will continue to work with communities facing delivery delays, service issues – items mentioned in the letter – and continue to elevate these concerns to the USPS when possible, when appropriate based on the needs of each community.

This means that future advocacy efforts from the Senator’s office will be more on a case-by-case basis, rather than as a regional effort, as “each community has its own challenges with USPS”, and allows each community to get the “detail and care” they should have, added the aide.

However, this letter represents Bennet’s most recent effort to address concerns expressed by rural communities.

“At this time, this letter heightens those concerns as (the USPS) begins to seek to implement the bill,” Bennet’s aide said.

In the letter, Bennet specifically speaks to concerns expressed by his constituents as a result of these meetings and how they inform his three identified priority areas for reform.

On mail delivery delays, Bennet wrote that it’s critical for Colorado residents to receive mail on time — especially for items such as bills, ballots and “vital federal benefits” — advocating for “improvement of infrastructure at processing facilities and local post offices” to help reduce delays.

For communities without mail delivery, Bennet wrote about the “long lines to pick up daily mail and packages” — which are the most frequently cited challenges at Eagle County post offices.

About third-party fulfillment, Bennet wrote that the increase in packages from third-party carriers “has further strained USPS staff resources and increased stress on facilities, some of which are not not sized to cope with the increases”.

Earlier, third-party delivery issues at the Avon Post Office led to reports of hundreds of packages being refused, particularly by UPS and Amazon, prompting the Postal Service to overhaul its processes and related agreements to prevent this from happening again in the future, according to the regional spokesperson for the Post Office.

Explaining how the law could bring about changes to these third-party challenges, Bennet wrote that “investment in modernizing infrastructure and improving services could help address these challenges.”

Local post office infrastructure is one area where local municipalities have advocated for change throughout this year. At the Gypsum Post Office – where a small post office has resulted in traffic and security issues, a lack of interior space for customers as well as employees – a space constraint study has been initiated, initiating a process of identifying new space for a post office.

On the other hand, the Avon Post Office – with its main challenges cited as long waits, messy conditions as well as late, delayed and missing deliveries – also received a space constraint study, but it was determined that the post office was not constrained.

In August, the Vail Daily requested a copy of these space constraint studies through the Freedom of Information Act, seeking information on how these determinations were made – however, the request was rejected on the grounds that the information was of a “proprietary nature”.

Key tenants of the Postal Service Reform Act include opportunities to increase agency transparency and accountability as well as codify a 6-day-a-week delivery standard.

By crafting this letter and pushing for more specific prioritization of postal challenges that Eagle County residents know well, the letter represents Bennet’s hope that these specific concerns will be addressed over the next 10 years of the agency, according to his assistant.