Postal Service: More red ink, late payments as mail slumps

Associated Press

A U.S. Postal Service letter carrier delivers mail in this photo.

Ideally, the United States Postal Service should be as speedy as the Pony Express. But lately, many customers have found it to be more like a broken-down mule.

Douglas Mahrer is one of them. The McMurray resident has not received any magazines in a month, and a package that was shipped from St. Louis on Dec. 15 had not landed on his doorstep as of last week. And he sent a package to Connecticut on Dec. 12. In theory, it should have taken three days for it to travel 400 miles or so. Instead, it finally arrived at its destination on Dec. 26.

Mahrer doesn’t fault mail carriers, but, he points out, “My view is USPS has done a disservice to its customers by failing to disclose their problems, as well as show what they are doing to correct them.”

The Postal Service has acknowledged that, yes, it is having problems right now. If you venture to the USPS website, it has emblazoned atop its home page, “Alert: USPS is experiencing unprecedented volume increases and limited employee availability due to the impacts of COVID-19. We appreciate your patience.”

COVID-19 has delivered a one-two punch to the Postal Service. First, it has caused a record number of packages to flood through the system, and it has sidelined legions of employees. According to news reports, when the sun set on 2020 last week, nearly 19,000 employees of the Postal Service nationwide were off the job and quarantined because they had either become infected with the coronavirus or came in contact with someone who had tested positive.

This follows budget cuts that were instituted after Louis DeJoy was appointed postmaster general over the summer. Sorting machines were removed at some locations and facilities that process mail were consolidated.

Employees at the Washington and Waynesburg post offices declined to comment, directing questions to Tad Kelley, a U.S. Postal Service spokesman for Western Pennsylvania. Kelley said, in a statement, “Nationally and locally, we delivered a record amount of packages this holiday season in the midst of the pandemic which significantly impacted our workforce availability. Capacity challenges with airlifts and trucking for moving this historic volume of mail also led to temporary delays.”

Kelley explained that these challenges “were felt by shippers across the board. We are accepting all volumes being presented to us, which adds to the challenge of the workload. ... We are proud of the hard work and dedication of our employees, and will continue to work around the clock to deliver all packages and mail entered into our system, including returns. We thank our customers for their continued support and understanding.”

If aggravation loves company, Mahrer has plenty of it. On social media, numerous Observer-Reporter readers reported bill payments that didn’t arrive on time, packages floating in limbo, expired coupons, Christmas cards that haven’t yet reached their recipients and medications that have been late.

“It took over three weeks for my medications to come in,” said Shanna Markovich, who is from Canonsburg. “I ran out of my daily stomach and asthma meds. It was horrible.”

Staff Writer

Brad Hundt came to the Observer-Reporter in 1998 after stints at newspapers in Georgia and Michigan. He serves as editorial page editor, and has covered the arts and entertainment and worked as a municipal beat reporter.

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