Weeks of no mail provokes anger among Englewood aldermen, residents
A Postal Service spokesman apologized for service disruptions at the Englewood post office and said that location suffers from a shortage of staff, but is “using available resources to match the workload created by the impacts of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.”
It has been two weeks since mail had been delivered to Randy Williams’ Englewood home.
Williams, who had a heart and kidney transplant just over a year ago, avoids large groups, since his preconditions put him at higher risk from COVID-19.
But on Thursday, he could wait no longer; he was expecting medications and some important documents.
So he headed to the Englewood post office, 6559 S. Ashland Ave., to see if his mail was there.
He wasn’t the only one.
“I had to come up here to look for my mail in a post office with 30 or 40 people in it,” Williams said Thursday morning outside the post office. “I came up here with no mail in two weeks and she gave me one piece of mail.”
Three aldermen — Stephanie Coleman (16th), David Moore (17th) and Raymond Lopez (15th) — were outside that post office Thursday to voice frustration with the U.S. Postal Service and local congressional representatives they say have ignored their concerns.
Coleman said the lack of mail is “another epidemic” for thousands of seniors and others on the South Side, who have been calling their offices to complain.
“This would not happen in Wrigleyville, this is not tolerated in the Gold Coast or on Lake Shore,” Coleman said. “It is unacceptable that our seniors, our residents, our taxpayers are complaining about not getting their mail.”
Many are waiting on checks, have fallen behind on bills or are missing medications. An extended wait like this is bad any time; in the middle of a pandemic and economic crisis, it is even worse, Coleman said.
Moore said he’s been told some residents have gone three weeks without receiving a single item of mail. During Thursday’s news conference, he read a list of the names of residents who called his office.
Postal Service spokesman Tim Norman apologized for the disruption in services at the Englewood post office. That location has experienced staff shortages and is “using available resources to match the workload created by the impacts of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.”
The weather hasn’t helped.
“We have also been challenged by the recent accumulation of snow in our region and ask customers to keep the approaches to their mailboxes clear of ice and snow,” Norman said.
Each alderman also recognized their limitation in fixing the problem since the Postal Service is a federal agency.
“When we call our congressman we expect some type of response … we expect an active response for an issue that is at the federal level,” Moore said.
Lopez echoed that frustration with local congressional members, calling out U.S. Rep. Danny Davis specifically.
“I reached out to Danny Davis’ office who for 40 minutes had us on the phone and he told me he’s not the post office and there is nothing he could do in Congress to address a federal department,” Lopez said.
Davis denied that phone call took place.
“I’ve not spoken to Alderman Lopez, I don’t even remember the last time we spoke on the phone,” Davis said. “I will say there is no simple solution to the problems that Chicago’s Postal Service is facing.”
Davis noted that problems with the Postal Service have lasted over a year; he pointed to then-President Donald Trump, who began slashing the agency in his effort to disparage mail-in voting.
Last summer, residents in nearby Auburn Gresham were feeling the same disruption in service.
Davis said he also has heard from constituents about not receiving mail for weeks at a time. It is one of the prime reasons he recently joined a House committee that oversees the Postal Service.
“I joined this committee just so that I could be in a position to work more closely and more effectively with postal issues to find out if it’s a manpower shortage, if it’s a lack of training, systems that don’t work or whatever it is,” Davis said. “I would never ever tell anybody ‘There is nothing government can do’ with any system that is a part of it.”
Manny Ramos is a corps member in Report for America, a not-for-profit journalism program that aims to bolster Sun-Times coverage of issues affecting Chicago’s South and West sides.