Ray Lines of Wantage, N.J., retired from the U.S. Postal Service 12 years ago. So he’s taking it personally that, during December and January, many pieces of mail that he’s posted and received have been delivered very, very late.
A letter he mailed from Wantage was received 32 days later in Wilmington, Delaware. His bills arrive after their due dates. One letter mailed in Boston on Dec. 9 finally arrived at his house on Jan. 7. One letter was delivered with a missing page. And his list grows.
When the paper contacted the Wantage post office asking for insight into the problems facing the USPS in the Sussex County area, we were referred back to Ray Lines. “The main reason for this great delay is Covid-19,” he said. “Postal workers have fewer people at the facilities. There are fewer trailer trucks and airplanes to deliver the mail at long distances. Some postal facilities are overpowered by the large mail volume.”
He points to the start of the postal system in 1639, during colonial times. In 1753, Benjamin Franklin became joint postmaster for all 13 colonies. “The people of this country and the world have trusted the post office to deliver their mail in a timely fashion,” he said. But 268 years later, he said, “our mail system has failed us all.”
“Companies are sending out late notices and late penalties for not receiving your mail on time,” he said. “Correcting these problems is very time consuming on the telephone.”
This is an economic problem for all Americans, said Lines. “People cannot pay their bills,” he said. “The companies do not get paid. The post office is losing out with more people paying their bills by phone or online. Many people feel the post office is near the end of its run with the surge of the internet. There are still many senior citizens who do not agree with that.”
Problems start at the top
During a press conference on Feb. 11, U.S. Rep. Matt Cartwright (D-8th District), who represents Pike and Wayne counties in Pennsylvania, has been getting an earful. The Wayne County commissioners tell him mail delivery failures are “unprecedented in their area.” One Pike County resident waited two weeks for USPS to bring her prescription medication. Businesses say late-arriving packages are destroying customer confidence and their mail order businesses.
Cartwright says changes at the top are needed to speed up delivery. U.S. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy’s changes implemented last summer in the name of “operational efficiency” are responsible for the slowdown, he said.
DeJoy is a donor to former President Trump with a history of investing in USPS competitors. Under his watch post boxes were removed, sorting machines dismantled, and employee overtime banned.
Cartwright said the post office’s financial distress is aggravated by a 2006 congressional mandate that the USPS pre-fund the retirement benefits of every postal employee when the employee is hired. Cartwright supports the USPS Fairness Act, introduced last week, that eliminates this mandate.
While court orders have halted DeJoy’s changes, the damage was already done, Cartwright said. He asked President Biden to fill vacancies on the USPS Board of Governors and get rid of members not acting in citizens’ best interests.
Cartwright doesn’t fault postal workers. “The American people deserve better, but the workers do too,” he said.
He conducted an informal 72-hour poll in which 94% of 6,700 respondents in the 8th Congressional District said they experienced delayed mail.
DeJoy plans to release his 10-year plan for the USPS within the week, according to CNN. He is scheduled to meet this week with the Postal Board of Governors in a public assembly, the first since Biden became president.
A frustrated public
On Facebook, 225 comments were posted regarding USPS service in Sussex County. For the most part, people said they liked their local post office. Many said that in a rural area it was a good place to meet their neighbors.
Some were disgruntled over long waits for mail delivery, but tended to be understanding when postal workers were polite and listened to them.
Some communities adore their postal workers, others not so much. Many complained that they got other people’s mail, or that their mail arrived wet, bent, and stuffed into their boxes.
One woman said she had to wait three months until she finally began to receive mail from her former address. One man said his ballot voting for Trump was returned to him with postage due.
Some said the only things that get delivered on time are from Amazon.
People from Pike County also weighed in on the Pike County Courier’s Facebook page (please see sidebar).
Ray Lines sums it up: “It is time for the country to stop Covid-19 and improve the economy of this country by including the U.S. Post Office in the challenges that are ahead.”