by Terry Rogers
On July 10, Louis DeJoy, the newly appointed United States Postmaster General, issued directives designed to reduce costs in the United States Postal Service. The organization, which has suffered financial difficulties for years, has seen expenses grow during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This operational pivot is long overdue and today, we are talking about the first step in a journey we must take together, for the health and stability of the Postal Service,” the directive read. “The shifts will be simple, but they will be challenging as we seek to change our culture and move away from past practices previously used.”
The directive requires all letter carriers to load their vehicles, run their route, and return on time. If delivery trucks were delayed or mail was not sorted before they were required to start their route, the mail would be left behind and delivered the next day. The directive also stated that overtime would no longer be authorized. However, local post offices are interpreting the directive differently.
According to the Milford Post Office, the directive no longer allows doubled routes which often occur when a letter carrier is out sick or on vacation, something that many postmasters around the country have also interpreted. This interpretation has led many people in the Milford area to not receive mail for more than a week. Adding to this problem is that the phone in the Milford Post Office has been out of order for more than a week as well, making it difficult for residents and businesses to contact the office to find out what was happening with their mail.
“The mailman has not been through our neighborhood since Wednesday,” resident Susan Dietz Geise said. “My neighbor and I have both been putting mail in our boxes that was never picked up. I had a package that said out for delivery Thursday and said it was undeliverable. Same thing happened Friday.”
Faith Gonzalez also stated that she has received packages but no other type of mail since Monday, July 13, despite the fact that Informed Delivery, the email program that provides photos of the mail to be delivered that day, showed that she should have received mail.
Government officials point out that federal law requires that the United States Postal Service must provide mail services to everyone in America promptly, efficiently, and reliably. Despite financial issues in the postal service, they express concerns that operational decisions could knowingly cause the USPS to fail to meet its own service delivery standards and cause harm to many residents across the country.
Many postal workers expressed dismay at the new directive, stating that there were concerns that mail left behind each day would cause a backlog. However, the directive states that all mail pieces that were left behind be logged and distributed the next day. Carriers were not to return to the distribution center to reload trucks and run an additional route, a decision that the new Postmaster General felt would “force new efficiencies in the system.”
“The Postal Service is developing a business plan to ensure that we will be financially stable and able to continue to provide reliable, affordable, safe and secure delivery of mail, packages, and other communications to all Americans as a vital part of the nation’s critical infrastructure,” Dave Partenheimer, a spokesman for the United States Postal Service said. “The overall plan is not yet finalized, but it will certainly include new and creative ways for us to fulfill our mission, and we will focus immediately on efficiency and items we can control, including adherence to the effective operating plans that we have developed.”
There has been resistance from letter carriers and the Postal Workers Union who believe the directive is counter to how postal workers have been trained for decades. The Union claims that postal workers feel they have a duty to deliver the mail in a timely manner and that the new directives are requiring them to delay mail that should be delivered.
DeJoy is focusing on cost and making the postal service financially solvent. The agency requested $75 billion from Congress to cover losses related to the pandemic. In May, they announced they would access a $10 billion loan and prioritize payments in order to remain operational. Previously, the USPS was expected to run out of money by September 2020 but the loan could help them remain operational by May 2021.
Although mail volume dropped during the pandemic, package deliveries increased significantly. This led to expenses growing faster than revenue, losing $651 million in May. DeJoy, who has no direct postal experience, but a significant amount of experience in logistics, began implementing changes almost as soon as he took office, stating that the USPS business model was “expensive and inflexible.”
“I did not accept this position in spite of these challenges, I accepted this position because of them,” DeJoy said. “I want to put this institution on a trajectory for success.”