Dear Members of the U.S. Senate
We are proud members of a cooperative community that includes over 60,000 cooperatives across both urban and rural America serving the interests of roughly 100 million Americans. Cooperatives are an essential component of the U.S. economy and we, their members and supporters, recognize the importance of the U.S. Postal Service to our very existence. It’s for that reason that we want to add our voices to those who are speaking out for a return to sanity and the de-politicization of the discussion about the U.S. Postal Service.
There has been much disturbing public discussion in recent months about the viability of the United States Postal Service (USPS), much of it centered on mail-in balloting. What’s lost in that discussion is acknowledgement of the critical role the post office plays in the daily exercise of commerce and community, especially in rural America. What’s forgotten is that the U.S. Postal Service in a public service, not a for-profit business. It’s origins are in the Constitution and it was first envisioned by Benjamin Franklin as a vital communications link that connected all 13 original colonies, enabling unity and growth as a Nation. It continues to play that same role today.
Staying alive in rural America is dependent on a functioning, stabilized and reliable postal service. Much as cooperatives provide rural America with a network of community-based business enterprises, the network of local post offices and the personnel who are the USPS workforce are grounded in the communities they serve.
There has been no better example than USPS performance during the COVID-19 crisis. More than ever, Americans relied on the Constitutionally-mandated Postal Service as a lifeline to deliver medicine, ecommerce products and mail and package deliveries to all corners of the country. This has been especially critical in rural areas, particularly for those without access to functioning broadband and internet services. We can never thank postal workers enough for their service and we wish them the ability to continue to perform that service in a healthy and safe environment. And we’re counting on them to perform just as reliably as a key component of our national elections in November!
As cooperators, we totally relate to the core mission of the USPS. Just as rural electric cooperatives provide reliable power to millions of rural square miles in 47 states, the USPS provides affordable “last mile” mail and package delivery services to thousands of business enterprises and rural residents in those same millions of miles throughout the country. USPS provides delivery service to the ‘last mile” where rural residents live and work.
We will not have a revived rural America without a robust U.S. Postal Service! We are going to have to work hard to revive rural economies in the post-pandemic world and it will require the stimulation of entrepreneurial activity and the engagement of all the essential institutions in rural communities. Among those essential building blocks are post offices which play an outsized role in everyday life in rural America. Not only are they a significant employer of rural residents, but they are a hub of local commerce. Constitutionally-mandated universally affordable post office services provide & protect rural residents and their business communities from escalating costs of doing business. There is no question that the absence of USPS would result in higher costs and less than universal service to rural businesses and residents.
We need adequate funding for postal service operations, but more than that we need assurances that the policies and procedures of the USPS will enable it to continue to meet the needs of residents in every zip code. For years there has been debate over postal service finances and operations. That debate will continue and we are hopeful that Congressional and USPS leadership will reach out and bring to the table stakeholders who understand the role the USPS plays in the rural economy. We look forward to a resolution of many of the issues and a strategy going forward that is built around the core functions of the USPS as we know it today.
But for today, we encourage you to take the politics out of the discussion! Remember the importance of the Constitutionally-mandated USPS and the essential services it has been providing during America’s greatest hour of need since the Great Depression!
Yours in Cooperation,
Members of the U.S. cooperative community