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What’s up with the US Postal Service? 33 senators want to know, too

Maine Sen. Angus King and 32 other senators are pressing Postmaster General DeJoy about ongoing, widespread mail delays.
Credit: AP

WASHINGTON, D.C., USA — Have you been wondering why the mail has seemed so slow, regardless of weather, in recent months? The U.S. has been experiencing delayed mail since last spring, impacting Americans who rely on the mail for their small businesses, daily needs, and prescription medications.

In a letter to Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, Maine Sen. Angus King and 32 of his colleagues in the Senate pressed DeJoy for answers.

“It is your duty, first and foremost, to protect service and ensure timely mail delivery for every person in this nation. We demand that you not make additional changes that will harm service for the American people,” they wrote.

The letter comes as recent reports say DeJoy is set to implement a plan that will raise postage rates and would slow down mail, according to The Washington Post and NBC News.

The Washington Post reported that DeJoy’s new plan would eliminate first-class mail, which would slow mail that typically arrives within two days.

“The Maine media, postal customer constituents, and postal workers have all informed my office about recent changes they have noted. The USPS is of no-less-than-vital service to the people of Maine," King said in a statement to NEWS CENTER Maine Friday. "As the nation’s oldest and one of its most rural states, the services USPS provides support essential commerce, communication, and health for the people of Maine. Any attack on or attempt to damage USPS services constitutes a harm to the people I represent – especially during a pandemic when mail traffic is delivering medication and basic goods for people abiding by COVID guidelines.”

In addition to the recent letter, dated Feb. 17, King and a group of his colleagues also pressed DeJoy back in September demanding answers as small businesses faced heightened economic challenges due to the pandemic.

"Many of these businesses have structured their business models around the U.S. Postal Service, which has long offered fast, reliable, and affordable service for their needs, from shipping products to sending paychecks to connecting with customers,” the senators wrote. “Changes that you have instituted at the Postal Service threaten the financial well-being of small businesses and their employees. Since you directed operational changes in post offices and processing centers that restrict timely mail delivery, small businesses across the country are reporting significant delays after years of reliable service.”

DeJoy, a wealthy North Carolina businessman who is a major donor of former President Donald Trump and was previously a fundraiser for the Republican National Convention, was appointed as Postmaster General in May 2019. Since then, service and policy changes DeJoy has implemented, like limiting staffing and overtime, has slowed down mail delivery.

Amid a nationwide surge of absentee and mail-in ballots in the 2020 General Election due to the pandemic, mail delay concerns were heightened. After a lawsuit was filed against DeJoy and the Postal Service, the Postal Service agreed to reverse all changes until after the election and prioritize election mail.

In the recent letter to DeJoy, the senators cite an October 2020 report from the USPS Office of Inspector General that confirmed the July 2020 changes DeJoy initiated, along with cost reduction strategies by operations executives, resulted in widespread delays.

“The Postal Service did not analyze the service impacts of these changes prior to making them. We appreciate that the Postal Service fulfilled its duties during the 2020 general election and executed extraordinary measures to prioritize timely delivery of election mail. However, we remain concerned about timely delivery of all mail, from packages to newspapers to letter mail and more,” they wrote.

Credit: AP
Letter carrier Angel Garcia delivers mail to a snow covered neighborhood after a second winter storm brought more snow and continued freezing temperatures to North Texas on Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2021, in Richardson, Texas. "We're going slow, but we are getting it delivered," Garcia said of USPS mail deliveries. (Smiley N. Pool/The Dallas Morning News via AP)

The senators say that while certain reasons for delay, such as winter weather and the holiday season surge, have credible explanations, “the fact remains that USPS leadership had a responsibility to prepare for these expected challenges.”

“We question whether management made adequate preparations including sufficient temporary hiring and logistical planning,” the wrote.

“We also question whether your decisions and directives continue to hinder mail delivery,” they continued. “Our constituents, including postal workers and Postal Service business partners, have reported concerning practices in at least some areas of the country, including management rejecting most overtime requests, limiting transportation, and renewing orders to reduce office time and leave mail behind.”

The senators went on to urge DeJoy to be “fully transparent with the public” about Postal Service operations and why there are still delays.

They asked that DeJoy answer the following by February 26, 2021:

  • Please describe the specific steps you have taken to identify each cause of mail delays, including measuring the impacts of management actions.
  • Please describe in detail the steps you took to prepare for expected high package volumes and employee shortages during the peak season. Please explain why you were unable to complete necessary steps to prevent delays, such as hiring sufficient temporary workers.
  • Please list steps you have taken to respond to customers who have been harmed by these mail delays.
  • Have any nationwide or regional operational changes, other than those listed in previous USPS statements, exacerbated mail delays during and since the peak season? Please describe.
  • Please explain any nationwide and regional operational directives you or other Postal Service executives have made since November 2020.
  • Will you commit to not reducing service standards, and to not enacting other changes that will reduce the level of service to our constituents, as part of your strategic plan?

Many Democrats in Congress and in state governments across the country have demanded DeJoy’s resignation, and have recently urged President Joe Biden to fill the open seats on the Board of Governors to overhaul Postal Service leadership. Only the board by replace the Postmaster General.

One of those vacancies was filled on Feb. 9 by a former labor leader and Obama administration leader, Ron Bloom, as chair of the board, the Associated Press reported. Bloom's placement marked the first step in a potential shakeup in Postal Service leadership under the Biden administration. 

According to NBC News, the White House said in a statement last week that Biden is focused on filling the board vacancies with nominees who “reflect his commitment to the workers of the U.S. Postal Service — who deliver on the post office’s vital universal service obligation.”

Read the full letter here: