Proposed USPS changes hit rural communities hardest - KAIT-Jonesboro, AR-News, weather, sports

Proposed USPS changes hit rural communities hardest

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AMAGON, AR (KAIT) – Starting this summer, say goodbye to mail delivery on Saturdays.

The United States Postal Service (USPS) announced Wednesday that it will cut down its delivery schedule to five days a week to save money.

Delivering mail only Monday through Friday is expected to save USPS an estimated $2 billion annually.

The agency has taken other cost-cutting measures recently after recording a $15.9 billion loss in its last fiscal year.

Many people now fear that the USPS will have to make more drastic cuts to overcome its unprecedented financial crisis. Some suspect that the agency will end up closing smaller post offices in rural areas, like in Amagon, Ark.

"That would be a big thing if we could protect [the post office in Amagon]," said Sue Baty, who lives in nearby Balch, "but how?"

Baty and her friends call themselves the ‘retired sewing ladies.' They stitch together quilts that will eventually be sold to benefit local families in need.

"We enjoy it," Baty said. "There's a group of us that get together, and we do it."

When they are not quilting, they are fighting to save the post office in Amagon.

"I think it'll eventually close," she said, "and we won't have a post office in Amagon and that is going to be a sad situation."

The Postal Service considered closing the Amagon Post Office in 2012 but ended up cutting its hours of operation. It is now open Monday through Saturday 9 to 11 a.m.

USPS now plans to stop delivering first-class mail like mailers, letters and catalogs on Saturdays, which Baty calls a "terrible" idea.

Members of the Arkansas delegation also voiced their opposition Wednesday to the changes being made to the mail delivery schedule.

Sen. Mark Pryor, a Democrat, issued a statement, writing in part that the agency should "consider alternative measures, such as capping the salaries of their top executives or eliminating bonuses, before making changes that would hurt rural communities who depend on the Postal Service for commerce, news, and necessary goods."

Republican Sen. John Boozman wrote, "While I am disappointed the postal service had to resort to changing its delivery service, the financial strain of losing nearly $16 billion last year should not come at the expense of the needs of Arkansans. We will work to limit the ramifications this decision will have on businesses and families who rely on the postal service."

USPS will cut end Saturday delivery starting August 5, 2013. The change is being taken without congressional approval.

Patrick Donahoe, the U.S. postmaster general and CEO, encouraged lawmakers Wednesday to make postal reform legislation a top priority.

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