Cantwell, Colleagues Demand Answers on USPS Changes, Call for Postmaster General to Testify to Congress

WASHINGTON, DC – As Congress continues to demand answers about changes at the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) that threaten to slow down mail and could impact voting this fall, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) joined Senator Gary Peters (D-MI) and the entire Senate Democratic caucus in sending a letter to Postmaster General Louis DeJoy demanding answers about changes in mail delivery that have caused significant delays for postal customers. The letter also calls on DeJoy to testify before Congress about the delays, which have impacted deliveries of prescription medication, veterans benefits, Social Security checks, and other essential services and supplies.

“The Postal Service is an essential public institution with an obligation to serve every community in the nation.  As Postmaster General, you should not make changes that will slow down mail or compromise service for veterans, small businesses, rural communities, seniors, and millions of Americans who rely on the mail for medicines, essential goods, voting, correspondence, and for their livelihoods,” the senators wrote. “In the weeks since you began to implement these changes, we have seen a steep increase in constituent concerns about mail delays, including restricted mail movement, limitations on carriers’ abilities to timely deliver mail, and most concerning, risks to receipt of critical mail involving life-saving medication and ballots for the upcoming general election.”

The letter requests information from DeJoy on how on-time mail delivery has been impacted by changes he has implemented, whether a formal analysis was conducted before changes were made, why no meaningful stakeholder engagement was performed before implementing changes, what changes might still be planned for the future, among other questions. The members asked for answers no later than August 24. The senators also called on DeJoy to testify before Congress to answer these and other questions.

“As Postmaster General, you have avoided answering questions about the magnitude of delays we have seen and have not yet provided any evidence that you studied or considered how your changes would affect delays and mail service before implementing these changes.  Furthermore, you have refused to engage with nearly all Members of Congress who have reached out to you or raised concerns about these issues,” the senators wrote. “The Postal Service is a public institution that both serves and belongs to every person in our nation. As a result, we call on you to testify before Congress about all changes you have made and plan to make as Postmaster General. The lack of transparency so far regarding the intent, scope, and responsibility for changes at the Postal Service is unacceptable.”

Last week, Cantwell joined the entire Senate Democratic caucus in calling on the USPS to fix mail delays and avoid increasing costs for election mail as millions of Americans plan to vote by mail this fall. Earlier this year, she also joined colleagues to introduce a resolution highlighting the importance of USPS and calling for increased funding to help the agency continue to perform its essential work amidst the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The full text of the letter is available HERE and below.

Dear Mr. DeJoy:

We write to seek answers about changes to the U.S. Postal Service under your leadership that are adversely affecting mail delivery for Americans across the country.  We call on you to testify before Congress about these changes and their impact on every person in our nation. 

The Postal Service is an essential public institution with an obligation to serve every community in the nation.  As Postmaster General, you should not make changes that will slow down mail or compromise service for veterans, small businesses, rural communities, seniors, and millions of Americans who rely on the mail for medicines, essential goods, voting, correspondence, and for their livelihoods. 

Last week, however, you confirmed to Congress that you recently directed operational changes in post offices and processing centers. On August 7, 2020, you also announced a significant reorganization of Postal Service leadership and functions. These changes include the elimination of extra mail transportation trips, the reduction of overtime, the start of a pilot program for mail sorting and delivery policies at hundreds of post offices, and the reduction of equipment at mail processing plants.  

The Postal Service has characterized these changes as efficiency or cost-saving measures and minimized any “temporary service issues” as an “inevitable” side effect of implementing new procedures. However, in practice and in the midst of a pandemic, these actions, whether intentionally or not, are causing mail delays and appear to constitute an unacceptable threat to the Postal Service and the millions of Americans who depend on it.

In the weeks since you began to implement these changes, we have seen a steep increase in constituent concerns about mail delays, including restricted mail movement, limitations on carriers’ abilities to timely deliver mail, and most concerning, risks to receipt of critical mail involving life-saving medication and ballots for the upcoming general election.  There are also reports that post offices have significantly reduced their hours, including in West Virginia, where postal officials circulated an alarming document announcing potential post office closures before quickly withdrawing it and calling it a misunderstanding.

As Postmaster General, you have avoided answering questions about the magnitude of delays we have seen and have not yet provided any evidence that you studied or considered how your changes would affect delays and mail service before implementing these changes.  Furthermore, you have refused to engage with nearly all Members of Congress who have reached out to you or raised concerns about these issues.  Inevitably, without additional information or engagement from you or the Postal Service with stakeholders about these changes, your actions raise questions regarding your intent and whether you have adequately sought to fully understand the Postal Service’s current capabilities, personnel, and public service mission before implementing these changes. 

The Postal Service is a public institution that both serves and belongs to every person in our nation. As a result, we call on you to testify before Congress about all changes you have made and plan to make as Postmaster General.  The lack of transparency so far regarding the intent, scope, and responsibility for changes at the Postal Service is unacceptable.  We understand you have committed to being more forthcoming and transparent with Congress and the American people regarding these changes, including providing documentation of the operational changes you have made and will be making since beginning your term.  For every American who relies on the Postal Service, we call on you to fulfill that commitment without delay.

To that end, please provide the following information by August 21, 2020:

  1. Please explain how the changes you have made to Postal Service operations since becoming Postmaster General have affected on-time mail delivery (i.e. service performance).  Please provide all nationwide, Area, and regional service performance data since June 15, 2020.
  2. Did you conduct any formal analysis before making these changes to Postal Service operations, including analysis of the potential effect on service performance?  If so, please provide the analysis.  If not, explain why not.  
  3. It appears the Postal Service did not consult meaningfully with any stakeholders, including unions, mailing industry stakeholders, or others, before implementing these operational changes.  Please explain why.
  4. Did you discuss these operational changes, or any other potential operational changes, with Administration officials outside the Postal Service?  Please list and describe any such discussions.
  5. What analysis did you conduct over your 8 weeks as Postmaster General to determine an “organizational realignment” was necessary and that the previous structure was inadequate?  Please provide copies and descriptions of any analysis, including any discussions with employees and business stakeholders. 
  6. The reorganization reshuffles reporting relationships and Postal Service geographic Areas.  How will this affect coordination among essential functions of the Postal Service during this pandemic?  How will this affect reports of service performance and other essential performance metrics?
  7. What, if any, plans are under consideration for further post office or facility hour reductions, suspensions, closures, or consolidations?
  8. What steps will you be taking to suspend or halt any changes adversely affecting mail delivery during this pandemic and in advance of the general election?

Thank you for your attention to this important matter.

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