When some ways of life disappear, a community adapts. But there’s no substitute for the post office when it fails rural Americans.
In the first quarter of 2022, the Nevada-Sierra postal district, which includes Gabbs’ residents and about three million others, saw mail deliveries take an average of 3.52 days, a 33.5 percent increase from the same period two years ago, according to data collected by Steve Hutkins, a prominent U.S. Postal Service expert and the editor of Save the Post Office, a blog that tracks the agency’s performance.
Over this same period, urban centers like Salt Lake City, Portland, Seattle and Sacramento saw mail delays increase around 30 percent on average. “The whole country is suffering as a result of bad service,” says Paul Steidler, a fellow at the Lexington Institute, a center-right think tank based in Virginia.
But the impact of late mail is felt even more acutely in rural areas like Gabbs, which host a higher proportion of low-income and senior residents. These populations are less likely to have internet access and more likely to rely on the mail to pay bills, receive medical prescriptions and correspond with the government.
The woes of the Postal Service led Congress to pass the Postal Service Reform Act, signed into law by President Joe Biden in April. But will it be enough to propel the agency into the 21st century and help regain the trust of rural American towns?
In Gabbs, residents aren’t holding their breath — or onto much hope — that it will.