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Post Office Closures Concentrated In Rural Areas

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The U.S. Postal Service announced Tuesday its latest round of closures. Up to 3,700 post offices could start closing as soon as early next year, and rural areas would be most affected.


OK. The U.S. Postal Service says it may have to close nearly 3,700 post offices across the country in order to dig itself out of debt. As NPR's Alex Kellogg reports, the closings could start as early as next year and they'll affect rural areas the most.

ALEX KELLOGG: Rural areas like Stewart, Ohio, which is about an hour and 45 minutes' drive from Columbus.

Unidentified Person: Howdy.

Unidentified Man: Hello.

KELLOGG: The post office there is one of a handful of storefronts in this town of just 247 people.

Ms. MISSY COHEN: Well, it'd be an inconvenience. I buy my stamps and mail my packages from here. I don't go to Athens. I just do it here.

KELLOGG: That's Missy Cohen. She lived across the street from the post office in Stewart for the past 18 years. If it closes, she'd have to drive to Athens, the next closest town.

The Postal Service is trying to close smaller, lesser used post offices like this one to cut into a deficit that topped $8 billion last year. The move could save roughly $200 million. Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe says the move would also involve a push to get small post office branches in existing businesses like drugstores.

Mr. PATRICK DONAHOE (Postmaster General): Hey, they're open seven days a week, 12, 14 hours a day. That's great for our customers, to be able to come in and mail and ship with us through that way.

KELLOGG: Other cost-cutting measures being considered: bills in Congress that if passed would end Saturday mail delivery, saving the Postal Service roughly three billion a year. Several hundred post offices have already closed.

Missy Cohen says that while she wouldn't want her post office in Stewart close, she'd understand why.

Ms. COHEN: Well, everybody's got money problems. You know what I mean? You need to downsize, I understand that, 'cause everybody's losing jobs.

KELLOGG: The U.S. Postal Service hasn't turned a profit since 2006. It's since been a steep decline, thanks to fewer people mailing items first class and the rapidly increasing popularity of email and other means for people to stay in touch.

Alex Kellogg, NPR News, Washington.

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