Members of Congress said they remain concerned about major delays in mail delivery, as they pressed the Baltimore postmaster on Monday over why parts of Maryland have some of the worst mail service in the country.
The Baltimore district has been under lawmakers’ scrutiny amid continuing complaints from constituents about delayed deliveries and lost mail, as well as inspector general reports that underline service problems.
Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., chair of Subcommittee on Government Operations, held the field hearing in Baltimore. Members of the Maryland congressional delegation attended, including U.S. Senators Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen.
Connolly noted that during the first year of the pandemic, in the last quarter of 2020, on-time delivery rates nationwide for first-class mail fell from 84% to 61%.
He said on-time delivery rates have since improved, though he pointed out the figures were helped by the U.S. Postal Service changing some of its delivery standards.
“On this day after the Super Bowl, you might liken this to moving the goal posts so close that the kicker couldn’t possibly miss the extra point,” he said.
Connolly and other lawmakers said that Baltimore continues to have major shortfalls in delivery, which have led to people not getting necessary medicines on time and incurring unnecessary late fees for bills that were sent out weeks ahead of deadlines.
“This is unacceptable,” said Cardin.
Eric Gilbert, who became the new postmaster of Baltimore last fall, told lawmakers he has been implementing a wide range of reforms aimed at improving service and cutting down on delays.
“We make every effort to ensure that when we receive the mail, we deliver the mail,” Gilbert said.
“But that’s not happening,” Cardin said, peppering Gilbert with several questions.
Gilbert told Cardin that he’s not satisfied with where the district is in terms of service, stating Baltimore has had continuing problems with people calling in sick and having inadequate staff to get all the work done.
Even though he’s stepped up hiring, he said it’s a constant challenge keeping workers on the job.
Gilbert also said some workers have quit after delivering in high-crime areas.
Connolly said a Postal Service inspector general’s report at one point found that close to a third of two-day mail wasn’t getting delivered on time and that about 75% of three-to-five day mail wasn’t delivered within that time frame.
Van Hollen, who held a hearing on the issue last summer, acknowledged there have been some improvements with delivery in Maryland, but he’s not satisfied.
“Baltimore remains the hot spot in the country in terms of poor mail service delivery,” Van Hollen said.
Van Hollen has been a critic of U.S. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, suggesting that changes he’s made nationwide have, at times, made service worse. He reiterated on Monday that he thinks DeJoy should resign.
DeJoy has defended his reforms, saying he’s trying to make the Postal Service more efficient.
The Senate this week is expected to pass legislation, already approved by the House, that would change budget requirements related to retirement benefits for postal workers. Supporters say it could potentially save the Postal Service billions of dollars.
The legislation would also require the continuation of mail delivery six days a week and require the Postal Service to create an online system to show its performance in delivering mail to communities across the country.