After deciding to close 491 post offices last year, the struggling US Postal Service will add as many as 2,000 additional branches to that tally beginning in March. Another 16,000 unprofitable ones will also be reviewed, as the USPS pushes Congress to allow them to close the worst performing, the Wall Street Journal reports (the law doesn't cite profitability as a reason for closing a post office). After a record $8.5 billion in losses last year, the USPS is arguing its network of 32,000 offices is outdated in the digital era, but a disproportionate number of the at-risk offices are in rural areas or small towns—and for the nearby residents, those offices are an integral part of staying connected to the rest of the nation.
"When they close the post office, they probably won't even come up here anymore and clean the roads,” says one resident of a small Kentucky town that doesn’t yet have reliable cable, Internet, or cell phone service. Though residents of affected communities will still have delivery (either to their homes or to mailbox clusters constructed in town) and can use post offices in neighboring towns, many of the elderly or those with health problems rely on a nearby branch. Says one 62-year-old, who would need to drive 12 miles on a steep, winding mountain road to the nearest branch, “It will hurt us real bad.”