Senator Heitkamp Brings PMG to North Dakota to Tackle Mail Service Challenges

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PMG Meghan Brennan answers questions while touring the Bismarck Mail Processing Facility on Thursday, August 11, 2016 (Photo by Will Kincaid – Tribune)

Press Release – August 11, 2016
BISMARCK, N.D. – U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp today brought the Postmaster General to North Dakota to see the state’s mail challenges up close and to discuss solutions for the unacceptable service issues facing the state.

Heitkamp toured the Bismarck mail processing facility with Postmaster General Megan Brennan, and then held a discussion with community and business leaders so the Postal Service could hear directly from North Dakotans impacted by slow service and delivery delays.

Postmaster General Brennan agreed to Heitkamp’s request to visit North Dakota in April, after Heitkamp shared her Fix My Mail survey results with the Postmaster. More than 550 North Dakotans have filled out the Fix My Mail survey since its February launch. The results revealed major challenges for residents throughout the state – from medications and tax information lost or delayed in the mail, to batches of checks taking 10-20 days to travel 180 miles across the state.

“The Postal Service can’t fix problems it doesn’t fully understand, which is why I’m pleased the Postmaster General came to North Dakota to learn about the problems postal customers face on the ground,” said Heitkamp. “As I work with the U.S. Postal Service to improve mail delivery throughout our state, I’d like to thank Postmaster General Brennan for responding to the concerns North Dakotans have shared with me. It’s because of stories from families and businesses across our state that I was able to show the Postal Service the need to hear our stories firsthand and take action. It’s critical that we keep holding the Postal Service accountable, and to do that we need to work together. That’s why I encourage North Dakotans across the state to continue to fill out the Fix My Mail survey on my U.S. Senate website.”

Heitkamp showed the Postal Service officials the Bismarck processing center to see the impact of scaling back the processing center in Minot. They discussed how that has impacted service across the state, and looked for strategies to improve service and reliability for families and businesses throughout North Dakota.

Representatives from Verendrye Electrical Cooperative, the Benson County Farmers Press, and other organizations that rely on reliable mail spoke at the roundtable about their challenges, and provided insight about how the Postal Service could improve mail service in the state. The roundtable also included community and state leaders, such North Dakota State Representatives Kenton Onstad and Bob Skarphol.

After the roundtable discussion, Heitkamp and the Postal Service officials met with employee groups representing postal workers, letter carriers, and postal supervisors to hear their concerns and discuss workforce strategies to meet the needs of North Dakota postal customers.

North Dakotans in rural communities rely heavily on the Postal Service to support their businesses and to connect them with family, and are disproportionately impacted by poor service and delivery – a point echoed in a Postal Service Inspector General report on mail volume. Over the past few years, rural America has faced increased delivery times, reduced service standards, and a distressed Postal Service workforce.

Heitkamp’s work to improve mail delivery in North Dakota began shortly after joining the U.S. Senate in 2013, when she heard from constituents about ongoing problems with mail service. In early 2014, she launched her Fix My Mail initiative, gathering comments from more than 200 North Dakotans about poor mail service and workforce challenges. Those stories prompted the Postal Service to take action in North Dakota, and at Heitkamp’s request, the Postal Service Inspector General issued a report confirming the problems North Dakotans had shared with Heitkamp.

Those accounts from North Dakotans also helped inform Heitkamp’s Rural Postal Act, which aims to improve mail delivery and service in rural communities.

Inspired by Heitkamp’s Fix My Mail initiative and survey, the Postal Service has launched a new customer service program aimed at improving mail delivery and service. The ‘Your Mail Matters’ program is encouraging North Dakotans to share their mail service challenges with the Postal Service via email, YourMailMatters@usps.gov, and a service line, 605-333-2648, which is managed and operated by the Postal Service District Office in Sioux Falls, S.D.

Heitkamp’s work to tackle mail service issues includes:

  • Resolving chronic mail issues in South Fargo. In January, Heitkamp pressed Postmaster General Brennan on severe mail issues in South Fargo. After reviewing the performance, the Postal Service brought in a carrier with 30 years of experience.
  • Shedding light on longstanding mail issues across North Dakota. As part of her Fix My Mail initiative, Heitkamp requested a review of the state’s mail delivery service challenges, which prompted a Postal Service Office of Inspector General formal report on North Dakota’s severe mail service problems.
  • Addressing mail concerns in rural North Dakota communities. Based on feedback from her Fix My Mail initiative, Heitkamp introduced her Rural Postal Act in 2015 to address the mail delivery concerns and challenges she heard about from North Dakotans. Key pieces and themes from Heitkamp’s bill have been included in new, comprehensive postal reform legislation.
  • Gathering feedback from North Dakotans to hold the Postal Service accountable and achieve results. Since Heitkamp launched her Fix My Mail survey in February, she has received more than 500 responses from North Dakotans about specific mail delivery challenges – the vast majority of which contained personal stories about the issues they had experienced. Heitkamp relayed these challenges to U.S. Postmaster General Megan Brennan and requested a prompt response to improve mail service.

Source: United States Senator Heidi Heitkamp

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