Marquette Mining Journal: Sen. Peters asks Michiganders to submit stories of recent mail delays

HOUGHTON — U.S. Sen. Gary Peters is asking Michigan residents to relay their experience with delayed mail as part of his investigation into service slowdowns after changes initiated by the new postmaster general.

Peters, U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence and postal employees expressed concern about the delays during an online press conference Monday, which they said had prevented residents from timely receipt of items like medication and bills. Mail delays could also affect the November election, which due to the COVID-19 epidemic is expected to have a record amount of voting by mail.

Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, appointed by President Trump in June, made a number of changes which the Postal Service said were aimed at increasing efficiency and financial stability.

Mail volume fell steeply in the early months of the pandemic, though numbers recovered somewhat as people began ordering more deliveries by mail. In the three-month period ending March 31, it lost $4.5 billion. The USPS estimates the changes would save $200 million.

Employees were told to leave mail behind at distribution centers if it delayed their routes, and to save the leftover mail for the next day.

Other directives include eliminating overtime pay and cutting back on mail-processing equipment.

Peters called for an investigation into the slowdowns as ranking member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. At first, DeJoy had responded the changes were local, and not directed nationally, Peters said. He changed his answer after the second request for information, Peters said.

Peters said the investigation would cover topics such as the data collection behind the policy changes, and how the post office would adjust its policies to improve service.

Peters visited a mail processing center with Lawrence, who had worked for the USPS prior to serving in Congress. She linked the delays to President Trump, who has called to privatize the post office and has also made claims without evidence that mail-in voting would be rife with voter fraud.

“This is not a partisan issue,” she said. “This is about our constitutionally established Postal Service, living up to its delivery standards and providing the tools for our democracy.”

Carl Blassingame, president of the Michigan Association of Letter Carriers, criticized the delays, which he said had not been present even during the height of COVID-19’s first wave.

“We’re not in the warehousing business, we’re in the delivery business and to warehouse mail to satisfy an individual agenda hurts the United States itself, the community, the people, from young to old,” Blassingame said.

Michele Brown, from Morley, Michigan, said before the recent changes, it took three days for the USPS to deliver the medication her husband receives through the Veterans Administration. Now it’s 12.

A recent letter of hers also took 10 days to reach Kalamazoo. And with the number of rural students in her area who received lesson plans by mail last spring, she’s concerned about the impact if schools have to go back to remote learning.

“It’s getting to where you have to plan so far ahead if you want to send something because you don’t know how long it’s going to take,” she said.

By:  Garrett Neese
Source: Marquette Mining Journal