Maryland and D.C. region residents continue to experience some of the worst on-time mail delivery by the U.S. Postal Service, and delays have persisted nationwide during the pandemic, according to testimony presented at a U.S. Senate hearing Tuesday.
Members of Congress have been hit with a steady stream of complaints from constituents, who say they’ve dealt with delays in the mail delivery of critical medicines, checks for government benefits and products small businesses rely on for revenue.
“For the last year, I’ve been hearing from thousands of constituents — thousands — about the slow postal delivery and I share their frustration and their anger at this unacceptable situation,” said Maryland Sen. Chris Van Hollen.
Van Hollen, who chairs the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government, presided over the hearing on Tuesday.
He noted that the USPS Baltimore district has the worst on-time delivery record in the country. The Capital district surrounding D.C. had the third-worst nationwide. The delivery data are on a dashboard created by the Postal Service Office of Inspector General.
Among those who testified was USPS Inspector General Tammy Whitcomb.
Van Hollen, a frequent critic of Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, asked her a series of questions related to the Postal Service’s performance.
DeJoy, who was chosen by the USPS Board of Governors during the Trump administration, has faced a great deal of scrutiny from congressional Democrats for implementing a wide range of reforms.
Whitcomb said those reforms, combined with dozens of other changes implemented by the board, took a toll on operations as postal workers struggled to deal with the challenges of the pandemic.
“This had a really significant impact on service because it was happening along with employee availability issues and an increased number of packages in the mail because of COVID,” she said.
Whitcomb said inspector general visits to postal districts across the country found that directions from management were being implemented “very inconsistently,” because in many cases, they were conveyed verbally rather than in written form.
She noted many of the delays were experienced during last summer, well after the heavy holiday shipping season.
Problems have persisted this year.
Karen Meyers of Baltimore operates a small business with her husband that markets bank checks to AFL-CIO union offices across the country.
She testified that many of their customers have complained about failing to receive check orders for weeks, or even months. In one case, she said a union office in Oakland, California, mailed an order form on Feb. 25 of this year and Meyers’ office didn’t receive it until June 10.
Van Hollen acknowledged that overall, the Postal Service has been making improvements, but indicated it will continue to remain under the close eye of Congress.
USPS recently reported what it said was its strongest quarterly service performance for all mail categories since the third quarter of fiscal year 2020.
First-class mail had an 87.5% delivery rate against its service standard during the latest third quarter. That was an increase of more than 9% over the second quarter.