How Trump administration assault on Postal Service is slowing the delivery of your mail

During this unprecedented time — the confluence of a deadly pandemic and an election where voting by mail will be more necessary than ever — an effective Postal Service is vital to public health and our democracy.

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Louis DeJoy, the new postmaster general, has eliminated the use of overtime, reduced mail sorting and processing hours, and changed how carriers are allowed to conduct their rounds.

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Evarene from Chicago is worried she’s not going to receive an upcoming order of her diabetes medication due to ongoing delivery issues with her local postal office.

Nancy from Evanston runs a small business and was supposed to receive a certified envelope containing a large payment on July 17, but the package didn’t arrive until August.

Earlene, from Chicago, has not received mail in three weeks. That means she has not received her pension checks, bank checks or bills. And she cannot get a hold of anyone at her mail facility to help.

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These are all stories from constituents who have reached out to my office in recent weeks about significant U.S. Postal Service delays. The stories are unfortunately not unique. In Illinois, we are receiving thousands of reports of mail delays across the state, from Chicago to Cairo, and there have been reports of individuals going up to two weeks without mail delivery in some Chicago neighborhoods.

What’s most frustrating is that these problems could have largely been avoided.

The new postmaster general, Louis DeJoy, took over the job on June 15 and quickly announced changes to longstanding USPS policies. We’re currently seeing the negative effects of these new policies. The changes include an elimination of overtime, a reduction in sorting and processing hours, and changing how carriers are allowed to conduct their rounds.

Memos to staff acknowledged that employees “may see mail left behind or mail on the workroom floor or docks, which is not typical.” According to the American Postal Workers Union, nearly 20% of all work by mail handlers, city carriers and postal drivers is done in overtime. And there are no plans to hire more workers to make up for the cut in hours.

These decisions are not simply cost-cutting measures, they are undermining the mission of the Postal Service. During this unprecedented time — the confluence of a deadly pandemic and an election where voting by mail will be more necessary than ever — an effective and smoothly running USPS is vital to public health and our democracy.

As stay-at-home orders and social distancing have been implemented in Illinois and across the country to control the spread of COVID-19, the timely delivery of medications, home health equipment, and goods has become more important than ever. In recent months, USPS has seen an increase in parcel volume anywhere from 20% to more than 80% compared to pre-pandemic levels. Limiting processing hours and overtime at this time is simply irresponsible.

Think of who these delays are hurting the most: seniors and veterans relying on medications to be delivered; people with underlying health conditions, who need to remain extra cautious during the pandemic; small businesses relying on the Postal Service to keep their operations afloat; and other vulnerable communities.

It’s undeniable that these delays also threaten our ability to hold a free and fair election. We are less than 100 days away from a national election where mail-in ballots delivered by USPS will be vital to ensuring that people of all political persuasions can safely exercise their right to vote while following public health experts’ recommendations to reduce the spread of COVID-19. No American should have to put their health at risk to cast their ballot.

It is clear that Congress must provide emergency funding to USPS so it can weather the storm of this public health and economic crisis. The House-passed HEROES Act includes $25 billion for USPS to cover revenue losses over the next two years. The Senate Republican proposal, on the other hand, bails out defense contractors, but includes no funding for the Postal Service.

President Trump has publicly called the Postal Service “a joke.” Postmaster General DeJoy routinely compares the agency to U.S. Steel as an example of the need to adapt to market changes. And many conservatives have pushed to privatize USPS for years.

Instead of undermining the Postal Service and its workers, we should be strengthening it, especially at this critical moment in history. Congress must act with urgency and fully fund the Postal Service now.

Dick Durbin, a Democrat, is the senior U.S. senator from Illinois.

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