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Michael Michaud

Closure Impacts Hampden & Beyond
By Representative Mike Michaud
Feb 29, 2012 - 4:56:40 AM

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Rolling back services and firing employees is not the way to restore the firm financial footing that is needed at the U.S. Postal Service (USPS). Unfortunately, that's exactly what the USPS did when it announced recently that it plans to close its Hampden mail processing facility in addition to hundreds of others throughout our country. I believe targeting this Maine facility is a huge mistake for a number of reasons and that it must be reversed.

First off, this decision could negatively impact about 170 workers. They could lose their jobs or get transferred to another location that's very far away. This uproots families and harms not only the lives of the workers, but also those of their families and the communities they call home.

And while it's a travesty for those directly connected to a closure, they are not the only ones that could feel the impact.

If the facility in Hampden ends up shutting its doors, many of Maine's families and businesses will notice that their mail takes longer to get to where they sent it. This will hurt the confidence that many have in the Postal Service and could lead many, especially businesses, to look at other delivery options. As a result, the closure of the Hampden facility could ultimately have the exact opposite impact that the Postal Service has in mind. Instead of saving money by shutting down facilities and firing workers, these moves by the USPS could turn out to be money losers down the line.

As if these reasons weren't bad enough, the underlying justification for closing postal facilities is based on incomplete data. I joined my colleagues in writing to the Postmaster General earlier this year pointing out that a review of the basis for the possible closure of more than 3,600 post offices and other facilities found serious flaws.

For example, the review found that the USPS had incomplete data for all post offices, branches and stations, which makes it impossible to accurately calculate cost savings from proposed closures. On top of that, the criteria used in the USPS's consolidation plans disproportionately targets rural post offices. This would not only hurt our largely rural state, but it also runs counter to the law - the USPS is required to provide effective and regular postal service to rural communities. This calls into question the very core of the USPS's current consolidations plans.

What is really needed is a moratorium on closures until the USPS adequately addresses these flaws. But Congress can and should act too.

The USPS action to shut down facilities will only solve a minor percentage of their funding problem. One of the biggest debt drivers for the USPS is the unique mandate it has to prefund retiree health benefits. If the overpayments from this mandate were given back to the USPS, it's likely that far fewer postal facilities would be targeted for closure or consolidation. There is a bill I support that would accomplish this, but congressional leaders have not taken it up. This inaction is even more disappointing given the fact that over half of the House of Representatives are cosponsors of the bill as well.

In addition to this bill, I am also pushing legislation that supports preserving 6-day delivery and protects rural communities from being disproportionately impacted by future closures. These are all measures that deserve a vote in the House and Senate, and I'm hopeful the pressure builds on congressional leaders to take action.

I'll continue to work with our congressional delegation in Washington to do whatever we can to prevent this closure and others like it from becoming a reality. Closing this facility would be a major step in the wrong direction for much of Maine as well as the future of the USPS. There is no doubt that the solvency of our Postal Service must be addressed, but its current plan isn't the responsible way to accomplish it.

Representative Mike Michaud

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