In a familiar story for rural Alaska post offices, the village has been without regular postal service since late October. Amazon packages on cargo flights are the only deliveries.
Mail is a village lifeline. Checks and money orders aren’t arriving in White Mountain, which especially affects elders who do not use debit cards. Bills cannot be sent or received, forcing potential delinquency and late fees.
“It’s frustrating for folks because all those people are waiting on bills to come in, they’re waiting for checks to come in… Some of them were distributed here when the itinerant workers came in,” said mayor Dan Harrelson.
“Several residents of White Mountain called the postal service and asked them what’s going on and how come we can’t get an itinerant worker in here and get our mail sorted but the postal service hasn’t been very outgoing or forthcoming on all that’s going on.”
USPS spokesman in Alaska, Brian Sperry says, “weather permitting, we will continue to have an employee from another Post Office fly to White Mountain at least once a week to distribute mail and provide retail services until the staffing situation is resolved.” So far, weather has made that difficult.
With little available housing, a high cost of living, low wages, and background check requirements, it can be difficult to hire postal workers in remote communities. White Mountain isn’t the only village whose mail has been in a state of flux.
The nearby village of Koyuk was without postal service for the majority of the past summer, but now has a full-time postmaster. Some Post Offices are only open a few days each week, or have limited pick-up times.
At the time this Static went to print, it was still uncertain whether residents of White Mountain would have mail service reinstated in time for Christmas.
Image at top: The village of White Mountain, as seen from the top of White Mountain Hill.