Delays in mail delivery have hit the Rehoboth Beach and Lewes area, but post office officials say they are temporary as the United States Postal Service works out a plan to improve service.
“I understand there have only been a few instances of temporary delays in this particular area,” said Ray V. Daiutolo Sr., spokesman for USPS Corporate Communications South Jersey & Philadelphia Districts. “The United States Postal Service is developing a business plan to ensure that we will be financially stable and able to continue to provide dependable, affordable, safe and secure delivery of mail and packages to all Americans as a vital part of the nation's critical infrastructure.”
The USPS plan will be presented to the postal board of governors when it is finalized, he said.
“[It] will include new and creative ways to help us fulfill our mission, and will focus on the Postal Service's strengths to maximize our prospects for long-term success.”
In June, Louis DeJoy began his tenure as postmaster general, pledging to improve operational efficiency and control overtime expenditures.
“The Postal Service is in a financially unsustainable position, stemming from substantial declines in mail volume, and a broken business model.
“We are currently unable to balance our costs with available funding sources to fulfill both our universal service mission and other legal obligations,” DeJoy wrote in a July 27 statement. “Because of this, the postal service has experienced over a decade of financial losses, with no end in sight, and we face an impending liquidity crisis.”
A recent Postal Service Inspector General report stated that the postal service spent $2.9 billion in delivery overtime and penalty overtime costs in fiscal year 2019. Another $1.1 billion was spent on mail processing overtime and penalty overtime, and $280 million on late and extra transportation.
On July 29, the USPS board of governors unanimously approved an agreement with the U.S. Department of Treasury on terms and conditions associated with a $10 billion loan through the CARES Act. The agreement is expected to be formalized in the next few weeks.
New delivery initiative
A new delivery initiative scheduled to begin July 25 in dozens of markets is meant to expedite street and afternoon sortation, according to the National Association of Letter Carriers – one of four unions that represent USPS employees. Delaware is not listed as a test site market.
“USPS states the purpose of this test is to determine if the Expedited Preferential Mail program can be enhanced to assist in reducing the morning office time for city letter carriers by enabling them to get on the street earlier,” according to the NALC. “USPS believes that their new version of this program will enhance customer service by providing more consistent delivery times.”
In a press release sent Aug. 3, the National Newspaper Association said the new expedited program should not delay service for overnight newspapers.
“This test will not affect the service standard or the service performance for any overnight-entered newspaper at post offices. Our top priority remains our commitment to serving our customers.
“You can rest assured that the USPS will remain a reliable delivery partner throughout the operation test,” said USPS Postal Service Chief Operating Officer David E. Williams in response to the newspaper association's questions.
The expedited program appears to affect only carrier routes that require the “casing” of newspapers – in other words, those mail pieces that must be sorted to a carrier’s case before delivery, said Matt Adelman, president of the National Newspaper Association.
However, the national letter carrier union said the new initiative does not appear to conform to union guidelines.
“The ESAS test requires carriers to clock-in, attend any service or safety talk, perform vehicle inspections, obtain accountable items, set-up their scanner, retrieve the parcel hamper, line up the small, parcels and rolls, and retrieve the mail cased and pulled down the previous afternoon,” the website states.
“Instead of casing their SPRs, carriers will line them up in delivery order prior to pulling their hot case mail and then immediately clock to the street to load their vehicle and begin delivery. Under the test, there is to be no casing of mail in the morning.”
A spokesman for NALC referred comment on delivery to the USPS.
The American Postal Workers Union could not be reached for comment.
Daiutolo said USPS is focused on providing efficient, high-quality service in a financially sustainable manner.
“In addition to developing a broader business plan, the postal service is taking immediate steps to increase operational efficiency by re-emphasizing existing plans that have been designed to provide prompt and reliable service within current service standards,” Daiutolo said.
“By running operations on time and on schedule, we will enhance our ability to be sustainable so that we can continue to provide high-quality, reasonably-priced service to all people and businesses in the country.”
The Postal Regulatory Commission said in a recent report that the Postal Service is not on a sustainable path, and that it continues to fall short of achieving service targets. In a statement, DeJoy said changes are needed so that the postal service can continue to serve all of America.
“The postal service has spent the last four years unsuccessfully trying to obtain reform legislation from Congress and pricing reform from the PRC, while remaining focused on the efficiency of our operations,” DeJoy said.
“Given our current situation, it is critical that the Postal Service take a fresh look at our operations and make necessary adjustments. We are highly focused on our public service mission to provide prompt, reliable, and efficient service to every person and business in this country, and to remain a part of the nation’s critical infrastructure.”
Daiutolo said customers who have mail delivery issues can contact customer service at 1-800-275-8777 or www.usps.com/help/contact-us.htm.
The Nassau annex of the USPS recently posted that it will close for lunch weekdays noon to 1 p.m. Daiutolo said the lunchtime closures are part of a USPS business plan to increase operational efficiency and reliable service. Besides Lewes, he said, post offices closing for lunch hours include Ocean View, Bethany Beach and Delmar.
“I understand the lunch closures are not at the same time,” Daiutolo said.
Slow mail service has become a point of political contention as the U.S. presidential election approaches in November. DeJoy, who was confirmed by the USPS board of governors, is a Trump supporter who was in charge of fundraising for the Republican National Convention, according to published reports.
USPS spokesman Daiutolo said by law the postmaster general serves at the pleasure of the governors of the Postal Service, a group that is bipartisan by statute and that evaluates the performance of the postmaster general in a nonpartisan fashion.
“The governors and Postmaster General DeJoy have an unwavering commitment to represent the public interest,” Daiutolo said. “They will work together to make decisions about all aspects of the Postal Service based not on any partisanship, but upon the exercise of their best judgment and business acumen to ensure that the Postal Service will be financially sustainable and can continue to be able to provide prompt, reliable, reasonably priced, and efficient universal service to all American consumers and businesses as a part of the nation’s critical infrastructure.”
However, many politicians and groups have said the Trump administration is trying to deliberately slow the mail before the election.
During the recent memorial service for the late U.S. Rep. John Lewis, former President Barack Obama said there is an effort to undermine the USPS in the run-up to an election that is going to be dependent on mailed-in ballots. Daiutolo refutes allegations that there is an intentional effort to slow mail.
“Let me emphasize we are not slowing down election mail or any other mail,” he said. “Instead, we continue to employ a robust and proven process to ensure proper handling of all election mail consistent with our standards.”