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Tester moving to block changes to Missoula mail processing facility

by KATE HESTON
Daily Inter Lake | May 7, 2024 12:00 AM

U.S. Sen. Jon Tester is crafting legislation to preserve the Postal Service’s outgoing mail processing operations in Missoula after federal officials revealed in April they planned to shift some of the work to Spokane.

The Protecting Access to Rural Carriers (PARCEL) Act would prohibit the Postal Service from closing or consolidating processing centers across the country, according to the three-term Democrat’s office. The legislation has not yet been filed in the Senate.

“The Postal Service is critical to Montana’s small businesses, seniors and veterans — and shortsighted decisions like relocating Missoula's outgoing mail processing operations out-of-state won’t work for folks in rural America,” Tester said in a statement.

The Postal Service announced April 30 that the agency would cut back operations in Missoula. In a statement, the service said that the Missoula facility will now be a “Local Processing Center.” 

A processing and distribution center is a hub that collects incoming mail from Post Offices and collection boxes and distributes it in a specific service area. The move from Missoula to Spokane is expected to improve service while reducing costs, Postal Service officials said.

If Tester’s PARCEL Act meets with approval, the Postal Service would not be allowed to close, consolidate, downgrade or take any similar action that would result in processing operations being relocated to another state or the degradation of local mail delivery without public approval.

If Postal Service officials were to move forward with a plan, they would have to complete a review of the anticipated impact of geographical considerations and publish a public input summary that reflects favorably on the decision. 

“Our bipartisan legislation will bring full operations back to Missoula and ensure that Postmaster [Louis] DeJoy won’t be able to strip rural America of reliable service without public approval and legitimate justification ever again,” Tester said. 

Republican Sen. Steve Daines also objected to the Postal Service’s decision. 

“I have serious concerns about mail delivery and potential job losses in MT as a result of this decision and will be pressing the Postal Service for answers and urging them to reconsider this decision,” said Daines in a statement. 

The PARCEL Act has yet to be assigned a number in Congress. Tester’s office sent the bill language to the Inter Lake on Wednesday. 

Reporter Kate Heston can be reached at kheston@dailyinterlake.com or 758-4459.