Update August 20 at 4:08 pm-
Residential mail collection boxes that were removed from Lewistown, Livingston, Manhattan, Helena, Glendive, Bozeman, and Shelby are being reinstated until after the election according to a release from Jon Tester's office.
The United State Postal Service shared the following locations of the removed boxes:
104 Hawthorne Ave
211 E Main
305 W Watson
325 S Main St
120 W Main St
317 N Cruse Ave
100 S Merrill Ave
1 W Main St
424 E Main St
301 W Main St
103 Culbertson Hall
903 W College St
220 W Lamme St
1001 N 17th Ave
226 1st Ave S
BIG SANDY, Mont. - U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, Sen. Steve Daines, Rep. Greg Gianforte and Gov. Steve Bullock asked for answers from the U.S. Postal Service Postmaster General, Louis DeJoy, after the USPS removed blue mail drop-off boxes in some Montana towns.
Sen. Tester confirmed the reports of the U.S. Postal Service’s removing of the blue mail drop-off boxes throughout Montana on Friday, releasing the following statement:
“Since ringing the alarm on the removal of collection boxes from communities across Montana, it has become clear that these reports are accurate. These actions set my hair on fire and they have real life implications for folks in rural America and their ability to access critical postal services like paying their bills and voting in upcoming elections. Postmaster General DeJoy must immediately provide Montanans with an explanation for the actions of the USPS, or he can do it under oath before a Senate Committee.”
Sen. Tester and Sen. Daines also sent out statements saying the USPS has paused its removal of mail collection boxes in towns across Montana.
In a release from Sen. Tester's Office, he pressed Postmaster General Louis DeJoy to give honest answers on the reports -- to explain where they're reportedly being removed and why.
Representatives from Sen. Tester's Office say they have received reports that the USPS may have recently removed mail drop-off boxes in Bozeman, Lewistown and Billings. Representatives from Sen. Daines' Office say they've also received reports of mail drop-off box removals in Missoula.
Sen. Tester stated the following in his release:
“I write today regarding reports of United States Postal Service (USPS) collection boxes being removed from numerous communities in Montana,”wrote Tester in the release. “If true, this seems to be occurring without any transparency or communication with impacted Montanans.”
Daines stated the following in his release:
“The United States Postal Service (USPS) is an essential service for Montanans in both urban and rural towns and is relied upon by Montana veterans, the elderly, and rural communities across the state,” Daines wrote. “Recently, I have received concerning reports that collection boxes have been removed in many Montana communities, including in Billings, Bozeman, Missoula, and Livingston and the potential that the removals of collection boxes could result in delayed mail delivery and reduced mail options for Montanans. If so, that is unacceptable, and I request additional information about why these boxes have already been removed, any future plans the USPS has for other collection boxes in the state, and if these changes will affect delivery times.”
Sen. Tester asked Dejoy the following questions listed in his release, he says he is expecting a response to the questions by Aug. 18:
“Has the USPS removed any collection boxes in the past 30 days in Montana?
If so, please provide the number of units removed by town.
Specifically, my office received reports that units were recently removed from Bozeman and Lewistown.
Are there any ongoing orders to remove any collection boxes in Montana?
For instance, my office received reports that the USPS is in the process of removing units in Billings.
If the USPS has recently or is planning to remove collection boxes, what is the rationale being used?
When were the last density tests conducted?
Will you make the results of those tests and any other data related to the removal of units public?
How have you communicated with the public and local elected officials to ensure there would not be a disruption in the critical service the USPS provides to these communities?
Has the USPS recently reassigned or added collection boxes to improve accessibility?”
Rep. Greg Gianforte requested the Postmaster General provide information about how the removal of collection boxes in Montana will impact mail delivery and about other potential changes in USPS service.
Rep. Gianforte stated the following in his release:
“I am writing to you after reports of reductions in mail collections boxes in several Montana cities. These reports mention Billings, Missoula, Bozeman, and Lewistown. I am concerned at the potential negative impact these cuts will have on mail delivery,” Gianforte wrote in a letter to DeJoy. “I ask that you provide additional data on how removal of collection boxes in Montana will impact delivery times, details about the process and criteria for determining how changes to delivery are being made, and information about other potential changes that alter mail delivery for Montanans.”
Governor Steve Bullock wrote a letter to the Postmaster General requesting to know why collection boxes in Montana are being removed, as well as asking for information regarding changes to operations that have caused delays in mail delivery.
Gov. Bullock stated the following in his release:
“I am deeply disturbed by reports of the removal of United States Postal Service (USPS) collection boxes in Montana communities and other changes to the operations of the USPS that have caused delays in mail delivery. This is unacceptable and will do great harm to Montanans’ livelihoods,” wrote Governor Bullock. “The services provided by the USPS are critical to the prosperity of Montana’s rural, tribal, and urban communities. Some 41% of rural Montanans do not have access to broadband internet, often relying on the mail for everything from paying their bills and accessing government services to keeping in touch with their family and friends.”
You can read Gov. Bullock's full letter here.
Thursday, President Donald Trump announced he is against providing emergency funding to aid the USPS' workflow during the 2020 General Election in November.
We reached out to the USPS and received the following statement:
For decades, the installation and removal of the Postal Service’s iconic blue collection mail boxes from streets across the country has been based on mail volume received in those boxes. It is a fluid process and figures can vary from day-to-day. Historically, mail boxes have been removed for lack of use and installed in growth areas. There are nearly 142,000 blue steel collection boxes on the streets nationwide.
When a collection box consistently receives very small amounts of mail for months on end, it costs the Postal Service money in fuel and workhours for letter carriers to drive to the mailbox and collect the mail. Removing the box is simply good business sense in that respect. It is important to note that anyone with a residential or business mailbox can use it as a vehicle to send outgoing mail.
The decision to remove a mailbox is made on a case-by-case basis and if, for example, that mailbox is the only means for sending a letter or other correspondence in a neighborhood, business center or senior citizen complex, the Postal Service could decide to keep it there.
In the past few years, greater emphasis has been placed on stabilizing the number of collection boxes in use and relocating low-use boxes to high traffic areas such as shopping centers, business parks, grocery stores, etc. for increased customer convenience. Additionally, collection times vary depending on location and may be changed based on transportation schedules. In the event a collection box schedule changes, advanced notice would be placed on the box to inform customers.
This is a normal operational procedure to make sure the majority of our boxes are in in high traffic areas and convenient for customers. Additionally, we still have carriers come to every single home six days a week and they collect any outgoing mail that is available. We are the most trusted Federal organization AND the most trusted brand in America. We take that trust very seriously and the Postal Service is fully committed to serving our state.
Article last updated Friday, August 14 at 4:47 pm with a statement from the USPS.