Mail access becoming big problem in DC, local postal leaders say

D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton is seen at a news conference in front of the Ben Franklin Post Office in Northwest D.C. on Thursday, Aug. 20, 2020. (WTOP/Kyle Cooper)

Even though Postmaster General Louis DeJoy has promised to stop enacting changes to the U.S. Postal Service for now that have caused mail delays across the country, local postal leaders say the damage is already done.

Keith Hooks, local representative for the National Association of Letter Carriers, said the problems are worst in Southeast D.C.

Hooks and other leaders spoke at a news conference Thursday outside the historic Ben Franklin Post Office on Pennsylvania Avenue Northwest in D.C.

“Customers complain that the mail rarely arrives,” he said, adding that customers have told him about people missing checks and bottles of medication.

In one case, a man from Southeast D.C. told Hooks that his dog ran out of food when a regular delivery never arrived, even though mail tracking showed the food had already been delivered.

Ray Robinson, with the local chapter of the American Postal Workers Union, relayed similar stories.

“Recently, I had someone call me, stating that they normally get their medicine in a day or two, but because of the delays, it’s taken more than a week,” Robinson said.

He added that two mail sorting machines that he said can sort 35,000 pieces of mail an hour were recently taken offline in D.C.

Asked what explanation he was given for the machines being taken offline, he said, “They said to cut costs, but this was the worst time to do it, based on the pandemic.”

Ward 8 ANC Commissioner Salim Adofo said his constituents are also complaining about mail service, and are nervous about their mail-in ballots for the November election.

Adofo said the problems at the post office “compromises the faith of a lot of residents that their vote will be counted.”

ANC Commissioner Pat Carmon, who also represents Ward 8, said she has experienced problems with the mail, saying her apartment building did not receive mail for two weeks.

“Constituents were coming to me and saying they were missing their medicine, they had bills to pay, unemployment, packages they had ordered for baby showers and birthdays — they had come and gone, and no packages,” Carmon said

D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, who organized the news conference, said she plans to ask a lot of questions and hopefully get answers when DeJoy appears before members of Congress this week and next.

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