Douglas post office could get 1-year reprieve

The U.S. Senate has passed a postal reform bill granting, among other things, a one-year moratorium on closing U.S. post offices.

Senate Bill 1789, the 21st Century Postal Service Act, passed the Senate Wednesday by a vote of 62 to 37.

The post office on Douglas was one of a group of facilities marked to close by a cash-strapped United States Postal Service. The postal service has lost $25.4 billion over the past four years.

Senate Bill 1789 must still gain approval from the House and president to become law. However, it holds a recommendation to stall post office closures, including the one in Douglas, in the meantime.

Sen. Mark Begich co-sponsored a successful amendment “expressing the sense of the Senate that the Postal Service should not close postal facilities … until the House also passes a postal reform bill, differences in the Senate are worked out, and the President signs it into law,” according to a Begich press release.

The moratorium is for closures in rural areas as defined by the Census Bureau. The bill also holds limits on closures based on proximity of other post offices and availability of other services.

Douglas residents held a rally to save their post office in March. Mayor Bruce Botelho spoke then. He reacted to passage of the bill by email.

“I appreciate the steps taken by the United States Senate in protecting essential mail service around the nation and its moratorium on any rural post office closures, as proposed by Senator Begich,” Botelho said. “I recognize that the House of Representatives has yet to act, but believe that it too appreciates the role that the post office plays in communities large and small around the country.”

Botelho said the moratorium on closures was only a reprieve.

However, “it provides ample space for a more considered and robust debate about postal services,” Botelho said.

• Contact reporter Russell Stigall at 523-2276 or at russell.stigall@juneauempire.com.

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