WASHINGTON – After hearing firsthand from hundreds of Virginians regarding continued widespread U.S. Postal Service (USPS) delays, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) fired off a letter to the U.S. Postmaster General urging him to address the troubling delay of life-saving medicines, groceries, supplies, and much more in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In their letter, the Senators call on U.S. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy to rescind policy changes that are delaying mail delivery, to publish data on COVID-19 cases of postal workers by Postal Area, and to take additional steps to ensure mail-order medications are expeditiously processed.
“We write to express deep concern regarding widespread mail delivery delays across Virginia in recent months. We have heard from hundreds of our constituents that recount unacceptable delays in the delivery of everything from Christmas and birthday cards to mail-order medications and credit card bills. Furthermore, we seek answers about operational decisions and other circumstances that have contributed to such delays and what is being done to prevent future failures,” the Senators wrote to U.S. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy.
Last summer, the Senators raised concern regarding the operational and structural changes U.S. Postmaster General DeJoy implemented and the impact it would have on timely mail delivery. In response to these concerns, U.S. Postmaster DeJoy temporarily halted some, though not all, of the operational changes planned until after the November 2020 election and had indicated that only a “temporary service decline” had occurred. However, according to the Postal Services’ own court filings, that proved that to be false.
In December 2020, first-class mail on-time delivery rates averaged just 52.4 percent in the Northern Virginia Postal District (Capitol Metro Area), 55.1 percent in the Richmond Postal District (Capitol Metro Area), and 67 percent in the Appalachian Postal District (Eastern Area). These rates represent drastic declines in comparison to the on-time delivery data from March 14, 2020 – July 11, 2020, the period between the onset of COVID-19-related impacts and the announcement of U.S. Postmaster General DeJoy’s operational changes. The on-time delivery rates of first-class mail in this time frame was 90.9 percent in the Northern Virginia Postal District, 90.3 percent in the Richmond Postal District, and 93.8 percent in the Appalachian Postal District.
“While we seek a general explanation of the factors contributing to substandard delivery rates, we also seek an explanation with respect to two specific issues raised by our constituents. First, dozens of our constituents, particularly in the Eastern region of our state, have tracked packages and mail that have been stuck at the USPS Processing and Distribution Center (P&DC) in Richmond, Virginia, sometimes for weeks at a time. This facility serves hundreds of thousands of our constituents across the Commonwealth and is critical in keeping much of our state connected. Insufficient staffing and capacity at such an essential outpost in Virginia’s mail system have profound consequences,” they continued. “A recent report from the USPS Office of Inspector General found that Richmond P&DC had the fourth-highest late trip rates among P&DCs nationwide and underestimated incoming mail piece volume by 66% in its operations plans. Relatedly, many of our constituents in all corners of the Commonwealth are reporting that they are not receiving any mail for days or weeks at a time despite the Informed Delivery system indicating they are receiving mail. We understand this is likely due to staffing shortages but implore you to create additional contingency plans to ensure a particular delivery route does not miss its mail for days at a time simply because its letter carrier is out sick.”
In addition to addressing postal delays impacting Virginians, their letter also requests that the U.S. Postmaster General publish the number of COVID-19 case levels amongst USPS staff in the interest of understanding where staff shortages may be occurring and affecting mail service, and where Congressional or executive intervention may be warranted.
“In light of the tremendous challenges facing the Postal Service during the COVID-19 pandemic and the failure of its leadership to ensure the timely delivery of mail in recent weeks and months, we urge you to immediately reverse all operational and organizational changes that have contributed to substantial mail delays. We also urge you to collect and publish aggregate data on confirmed COVID-19 cases among postal workers by Postal Area so public health agencies, Congress, and USPS can better surge targeted support towards regions facing substantial staff shortages. Finally, we urge you to review and implement processes to expedite the delivery of mail-order medications in an environment of widespread delays,” concluded the Senators.
Sens. Warner and Kaine have been vocal about reversing any changes to USPS that have affected the reliability of mail delivery. They previously joined their colleagues in a letter asking the U.S. Postmaster General not to take any further action that makes it harder and more expensive for states and election jurisdictions to mail ballots ahead of the 2020 presidential election. Additionally, Sen. Warner previously raised concerns over the USPS operational changes and the heightened impact to servicemembers and their families and pushed to correct the changes that are needlessly delaying veterans’ access to life-saving prescriptions.
A copy of the letter is found here .