With fewer people paying their bills, sending birthday greetings and conducting business through the mail, the United States Postal Service recently announced it is considering closing more than 3,500 of its retail outlets, most of which are in rural areas.

USPS says the closures will help address its $8 billion deficit this year.

Some lawmakers, like Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), whose state could lose up to 34 post of- fices, are questioning how much the closures would help boost USPS’ sagging bottom line.

“The fact is, maintaining our nation’s rural post offices costs the postal service less than 1 percent of its total budget and is not the cause of its financial crisis,” Collins said.

The agency’s final decision on which offices to close will be based in part on how much money the office brings in, how many hours of work are performed there each day and how close it is to other post offices, said R.J. Karney, rural development specialist at the American Farm Bureau Federation.

With USPS officials holding hearings for residents who would be affected by the closures, a USPS spokesperson urged those who are worried about losing their post office to be very detailed when they speak with the agency.

“We understand you don’t want your branch to close, but we need to know your precise concerns, including the distance to alternative offices, security issues with roadside boxes, and whatever else is important,” said the USPS’ Pete Nowacki.

A number of rural U.S. senators have signed on to two bills that would, among other things, pre- vent the closure of post offices if the closure resulted in a more than 10-mile distance between post offices.

In addition, more than 80 House members sent a letter to Postal Regulatory Commission Chairman Ruth Goldway cautioning that post office closures are not the way to solve USPS’s money problems. The lawmakers noted that rural areas would be especially hurt.

Post offices being considered for closure are listed by state at www.usps.com. In addition, notifications are posted at each of the locations on the list.