Congress must do its part to make sure Postmaster DeJoy does his job
The Senate has failed to consider Biden’s nominees to the USPS Board of Governors, leaving it ill-equipped to hold DeJoy accountable and ensure quality mail service.
In the fall of 2020, our office started receiving an increase in calls about missing and delayed mail. Over one year later, not only have the calls continued, but they’ve become more frequent and even more frantic. Since we rang in the new year, 50% of the calls my office has received are about postal delays.
I have heard heart-breaking stories about seniors going without medications that never arrived, families missing payments because they never received paychecks or credit card statements, and small business owners reliant on the mail who are completely unable to operate. Constituents have called after not receiving any mail for weeks. These delays are unacceptable.
I know our postal workers are doing all that they can, braving the difficulties posed by the pandemic and continuing their devotion to serving the American people. They are frontline workers who deserve a safe, healthy, and positive work environment. The tragic reality is that U.S. Postal Service remains chronically under-staffed and without the resources it needs to keep up with demand.
The Postal Service needs leaders as committed to public service as the letter carriers and mail handlers who’ve doubled down to deliver for Americans.
Now, to be sure, the pandemic contributes to some of this, with increased demand on the mail system even as postal workers are staying home, quarantining and looking after loved ones. But while leaders in the private sector have adapted to this moment, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy has responded to this by eliminating overtime, closing mail processing facilities, and removing mail sorting machines. He has made things worse.
In the private sector, a corporate board would have long ago held this unqualified leader to account. That hasn’t happened at the Postal Service in part because we still don’t have a fully staffed Postal Board of Governors. It is vital that the Postal Board of Governors operate at full capacity to meet the needs of this moment and properly evaluate the performance of the USPS.
Senate hasn’t done its job
The good news is this: there are concrete actions that can be taken to solve this problem. In October, I heard from witnesses at the House Oversight and Reform Committee’s field hearing in Chicago about how DeJoy’s operational changes have impacted USPS customers. At that hearing, we learned that in the City of Chicago over a six-month period, there were more than 60,000 letters and 2,000 packages that had been delayed, some for more than a month. Witnesses also spoke to how a lack of resources and under-staffing at distribution centers have contributed to widespread delivery delays in the Chicago area, even prior to the pandemic.
In November 2021, President Joe Biden named two nominees, Daniel Tangherlini and Derek Kan, to fill vacancies on the Postal Service Board of Governors. However, the Senate has failed to consider either nominee, leaving the Board of Governors ill-equipped to lead their workforce.
The Board of Governors must operate at its full capacity to oversee and complete the Postal Service’s mandate as a public service.
I recently led a letter with my House colleagues from Illinois to the Senate calling for Tangherlini and Kan’s immediate consideration before the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee and the full U.S. Senate. We need to swiftly improve accountability at the Postal Service through a fully staffed Board of Governors.
Through these difficulties, my office regularly engages with the USPS on behalf of constituents to ensure they are receiving their mail. I heard from one constituent in particular who shared how she depends on the mail for her prescriptions, to pay her bills, and to send weekly letters to connect with her granddaughter who is away in college. She went a week without any mail delivery when she had reached out to my office. While I’m pleased that with our intervention, her mail service improved, it shouldn’t take repeated congressional intervention for the USPS to deliver on its promise to the American people.
The Postal Service has a mandate to serve the American people. Our letter carriers and mail handlers are doing their part. We need USPS leaders and Congress to do the same.
Sean Casten is the U.S. representative from Illinois’ 6th Congressional District.
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