In D.C., the phrase “snail mail” has been uttered by many residents in all eight wards, as reports come in of some mail being delivered very late, and in some cases, expected letters never arrive.
Complaints from affected Washingtonians prompted D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton to send a letter to the Postal Service, which responded that steps were being taken to address “inconsistent delivery” in the District.
The response to the delegate came from Sherry Harper, the Executive Postmaster for D.C.
“Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in increased employee absences and reduced employee availability, which continue to impact our delivery operations,” Harper wrote.
She said the additional 600 hours of Emergency Federal Employee Leave granted to federal workers by Congress has affected employee availability for the Postal Service and other federal agencies. This means when high numbers of absences are seen, the work of those on leave must be absorbed by other employees, Harper said.
Among the steps to handle the situation, according to Harper, is lending employees to post offices seeing absences, allowing for high levels of overtime, and the close monitoring of unscheduled absences. And, available carriers have been working their nonscheduled day each week and are being given the option to work on Sundays.
Norton also requested an update on the Postal Service’s work to hire more carriers.
Harper said that since April, the city has hired an additional 87 mail carrier assistants in D.C.; however, she said retaining a supplemental workforce has remained a challenge.
Harper said the goal is to increase employee availability through hiring efforts and the return to duty of existing employees.
The delays in mail delivery have been criticized by city leaders and residents in recent months. In a letter to the Postal Service on Aug. 31, Ward 6 Council member Charles Allen said the delays go beyond a minor inconvenience and is instead a critical failure.
Letter to Postal Service abt chronic delays with the mail: “I’m concerned you view this as a minor inconvenience, rather than the critical failure that it is. This goes well beyond a delayed birthday card — residents are missing vital medical, legal, & financial correspondence.” pic.twitter.com/CT5omkligL
— Charles Allen (@charlesallen) August 31, 2021
“This goes well beyond a delayed birthday card — residents are missing vital medical, legal, and financial correspondence,” Allen wrote.
Ward 6 resident Thais Austin told WTOP back in August that she had mail delayed, including a water bill that arrived four months after being sent. The D.C.-area real estate agent said the situation has resulted in trying to avoid using the Postal Service.
“Now I make people either FedEx or use some other service to mail me something,” Austin said.
“Despite the present challenges, you can be assured that the management team of the Washington Post Office, which I lead, is committed to providing your constituents in the District with the best possible service each day,” Harper said.
In response to the letter, Norton’s office said the she will continue to monitor the situation.
WTOP’s Scott Gelman contributed to this report.