As mail delays plague the country, Americans are demanding to know why and asking what it means for consumers.
Photo by Michael A. McCoy/Getty Images
The sound of more than a hundred people banging pots and pans filled the tense air in the Washington D.C. neighborhood of Kalorama early Saturday morning on August 15 2020. The pans background noise for chants of “resign” as protesters walked through the wide and tree lined streets headed straight for USPS Postmaster General Louis Dejoy’s residence.
The reason for the sunrise protests? The United States Postal Service's inability to deliver on time.
Mail delivery is not a service most people are actively aware of. As San Joaquin Memorial junior Spencer Douangphouxay puts it he “definitely thinks about it when I have myself ordered something.”
However the process of mail delivery does make him “wonder how it got delivered and where it has been and what it’s been through to get to me.”
For many Americans across the country they no longer have the privilege of wondering as essential mail such as bills and checks get stuck in transit. For Baltimore County resident Kasandra Peros the delay comes at a very real cost.
"Bills aren't getting paid. My car insurance has been due. I got bills that need to be paid, and I can't pay them because I can't get my mail," Peros explained.
The source of these delays according to protesters? The Postmaster General's recent restructuring of the USPS. The restructuring was a “strategic plan to achieve operational excellence and financial stability” according to statement made by Dejoy.
The necessity to institute changes comes from the USPS inability to turn a profit. In the last eleven fiscal years the service has lost $69 billion dollars. This does not include their debt which at the end of the 2018 fiscal year was at a whopping $143 billion dollars. Furthermore, before Dejoy there was a limited amount of cost reduction measures to ease the dire financial situation. Without some type of cost reduction measures being implemented into the USPS the service would continue to miss payments for health and pension benefits to retirees as they had already missed $5.6 billion in compensation since the end of 2014.
The immense debt was an issue Dejoy was attempting to address through reducing the amount spent in processing overtime, delivery overtime and late transportation fees which totaled to over $280 billion before Dejoy became Postmaster General.
However in an internal memo he wrote this “transformative initiative has had unintended consequences that impacted our overall service levels.”
This was again reiterated when Dejoy spoke before congress about the slow down of the USPS saying “certainly there was slowdown in the mail when our production did not meet the schedule.”
While much of the criticism against Dejoy and the USPS stems from the fear of mail in ballots not being sent or counted, the USPS’s slow down has consequences that reach far beyond the November election.
The slow down has not just hurt individuals such as Peros, it has also hit small business owners especially hard.
Beth Nolan is one of those small business owners who was hurt by these delays. Speaking to NBC News she explained shipments from her small business keep arriving late to consumers resulting in her company's shipment costs doubling.
Small businesses are not the only group concerned about the reported USPS delays. Those who rely on prescription medication worry they won't get their essential prescriptions in time. With medications delivered through the mail rising 21% in March according to a publication from the American Pharmacists Association a slowdown hurts a significant portion of Americans relying on it to get lifesaving treatment.
For small business owners and those relying on the USPS for medication and other services they hope the temporary setbacks are soon over.
For consumers these delays mean higher delivery charges at small online stores like Etsy as well as delays in receiving those shipments. Additionally, official documents that must be sent by mail such as driver licenses, passports or mail in ballots have the potential to be late.
When asked for her opinion on the USPS, senior Ellie Luchini said “it’s a valid service and mailmen still bring the mail no matter the weather... I love the USPS.”
Many Americans, relying on the service and sharing the same sentiments as Ellie Luchini, are calling on the protection of the USPS by lawmakers. Dejoy recently suspended the new policy changes after massive protests such as the one at his Kalorama home, but only time will tell if the USPS will stop delivering through this stormy weather.