U.S. Postal Service:

Information on Emergency Suspensions of Operations at Post Offices

GGD-97-70R: Published: Apr 23, 1997. Publicly Released: Apr 23, 1997.

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Bernard L. Ungar
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on emergency suspensions of operations at post offices by the Postal Service, focusing on the: (1) Postal Service process for suspending operations at post offices; (2) number of post offices whose operations were suspended since fiscal year (FY) 1992 and the reasons for those suspensions; and (3) number of post offices currently under suspension and the length of time these suspensions have been in effect.

GAO noted that: (1) under its policies and procedures, the Postal Service may suspend the operations of a post office under any one of several emergency conditions that constitute a threat to the safety and health of postal employees or customers, or to the security of the mail; (2) these emergencies include circumstances such as a natural disaster or a lease termination; (3) service district managers are authorized to suspend operations of post offices and are required to notify: (a) Service headquarters in writing of any emergency suspension; and (b) affected customers of the reason for the suspension, alternative services available, the nearest post office and its hours of operation, and a person to contact for more information; (4) within 6 months of an emergency suspension, the district managers are to decide whether to reopen the post office or to initiate a study of the feasibility of permanently closing it; (5) there is no time limit for completing such a study, and the post office remains in emergency suspension status while the study is being completed; (6) since the beginning of FY 1992 through March 31, 1997, Service records show that the operations of 651 post offices have been suspended; (7) the reasons for these suspensions varied, but almost one-half were caused by the termination of the post offices' lease or rental agreement; (8) to date, the Service has reopened 31 of the 651 post offices that were under suspension; (9) as of March 31, 1997, 470 post offices were under emergency suspension; (10) the operations of these post offices have been suspended for periods ranging from a few days to over 10 years; (11) of the 470 whose operations were suspended, 348 were undergoing a study to determine the feasibility of permanently closing them; and (12) for the remaining 122, the Service had approved the district managers' recommendations to permanently close 45, and was reviewing the district managers' recommendations to permanently close the other 77.

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