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Weekly Column: Protecting Access To Idaho Post Offices

Guest column submitted by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo

The first Post Office in Idaho was established in 1862 in Lewiston.  In a 2012 Lewiston Tribune article titled, “Lewiston celebrates its postal past,” historian Steven Branting shared: "People had a hunger for information from the outside world, but they were isolated.  There was no phone, no Internet and no tweeting.  People were looking to post offices to link them up.  Early residents generated a petition - which was sent to Washington, D.C. - asking for a post office to be established in Lewiston and a postmaster to be sent here.”  Idahoans have played an important role in communicating their needs for this service over the U.S. Postal Service’s (USPS) history in our great State and deserve to help drive local priorities while the USPS addresses ongoing challenges.

As the USPS is under strain due to a lack of carriers and supply shortages, Idaho communities have reported struggles in conveying their needs to the USPS.  The City of Meridian is requesting USPS establish a new post office in the City, but USPS could not delineate the process for requesting a new post office.  Likewise, Idaho communities in Deary and Viola were notified of local post office closures without community input, creating difficulties and inconveniences for residents and businesses traveling long distances to obtain mail, some including needed medications.  Additionally, constituents in Hailey have been unable to receive consistent deliveries or even pick up their mail from the post office and the City of Ketchum has been asking the Postal Service to consider initiating home deliveries or waiving post office box fees consistent with agency regulations. 

To address these concerns, I have and continue to reach out to the Postal Service to resolve these issues.  Further, fellow members of Idaho’s Congressional Delegation, Senator Jim Risch and Representatives Russ Fulcher and Mike Simpson (all R-Idaho), and I introduced legislation in both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives to improve access to local USPS post offices.  The legislation would require more community input before relocating a post office as well as encourage recommendations from municipalities to request additional post offices.

S. 3515/H.R. 6788, the Mandating Advisable and Informed Locations and Solutions (MAILS) Act would:

  • Require the USPS to establish a formal process for local government officials to request a new post office within their localities; and
  • Require USPS to solicit and consider community input, as well as formally notify elected officials of pending relocation of local post offices and provide updates as necessary.  Any long-term relocation would require USPS to submit a report to relevant committees and legislators from affected localities.

Over the years since my father was postmaster in Idaho Falls, shipping and receiving packages and forms of communication have grown considerably.  However, post offices remain a valued part of our communities and respected means of sending goods and messages.  The communities, especially rural towns across Idaho, that rely on local post offices must continue to have access to prompt, reliable and efficient service responsive to their needs.  I will continue to work with Idahoans to protect access to local post offices.

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