Manchin calls on Postmaster General to restore on-time delivery

U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) led 34 Senators in calling on Postmaster General Louis DeJoy to address persistent mail delays and clarify what actions he is taking to restore on-time mail delivery. While Congressional oversight efforts and public pressure have helped address these damaging delays and improve on-time mail delivery, many West Virginians and Americans across the country continue to face unacceptable delays and other performance issues.

Their letter reads as follows:

Dear Mr. DeJoy: 

We write to seek answers about continued mail delays under your leadership that are adversely affecting our constituents across the country.

In 2020, you made changes to operations at the U.S. Postal Service that slowed down mail and compromised service for veterans, seniors, and others who depend on the mail for prescription medications, package deliveries for small businesses, and other critical needs. An October 2020 report from the nonpartisan USPS Office of Inspector General confirmed that the July 2020 changes you 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.

In recent weeks our constituents have again faced unacceptable delays. On-time delivery plummeted during the holiday “peak season.” For example, the week of December 26, 2020, nationwide on-time delivery was 64% for First-Class Mail and 45% for periodicals. Delays were even worse in many areas of the country. Our constituents have experienced missed paychecks and court notices, delayed critical prescriptions, an inability to reach small business customers and suppliers, lost rent payments and delayed credit card payments resulting in late fees, breakdowns in service to their communities, late personal mail such as holiday packages, and more. Reportedly, mail delivery has not yet recovered after the peak season, with constituents continuing to experience delays despite the tireless efforts of postal workers.

USPS has attributed recent delays to the historically high volume of packages during peak season, a shortage of airlift and trucking capacity, and employee shortages with postal workers on necessary leave due to COVID-19. While these are 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.

We also question whether your decisions and directives continue to hinder mail delivery. 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. In addition, your hiring freeze on managers, implemented as part of a reorganization plan, has reportedly left many local postal manager positions vacant. Finally, you have announced that additional changes to the Postal Service will be forthcoming under a strategic plan that you and the Board of Governors will release in the coming weeks. This plan will reportedly include changes to service standards, slowing down the mail even further.

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. In addition, we urge you to be fully transparent with the public about Postal Service operations and the reasons they are still facing delays. To that end, we ask that you answer the following by February 26, 2021:

1. Please describe the specific steps you have taken to identify each cause of mail delays, including measuring the impacts of management actions.

2. 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.

3. Please list steps you have taken to respond to customers who have been harmed by these mail delays.

4. 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.

5. Please explain any nationwide and regional operational directives you or other Postal Service executives have made since November 2020.

6. 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?

Thank you for your attention. We look forward to working with the Postal Service during the 117th Congress to ensure it remains a vibrant, sustainable institution for generations to come.

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