Man in charge of U.S. Postal Service admits rollout of Virginia regional distribution center was a 'disaster'

Posted at 5:24 PM, Apr 30, 2024
and last updated 2024-05-02 12:31:05-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- Following months of complaints about slow or missing mail, Virginia lawmakers are finally hearing directly from the man in charge of the U.S. Postal Service.

U.S. Senators Tim Kaine (D - Virginia) and Mark Warner (D - Virginia), as well as U.S. Representatives Jennifer McClellan and Rob Wittman met with Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, who agreed that the USPS's rollout of the Regional Processing and Distribution Center was a "disaster."

The rollout was part of a 10-year plan to streamline the mail service, making mail delivery more efficient.

However, an Inspector General report found a "sharp decline" in mail delivery after the change was made, citing a lack of clear guidance as to how the rollout would happen and issues with staffing and management before the major change.

The mounting issues with the rollout were brought before the U.S. Senate Postal Service Committee, with Postmaster General DeJoy apologizing for the issues, yet not budgeting on the change due to budget constraints.

"It is plant by plant, person by person, driver by driver, that has to take on a new way of working and thinking," DeJoy said during the roughly two-hour hearing. "And it's easy to criticize when you show up at the crime scene, when you see the damage."

His meeting with Virginia lawmakers came on the heels of the hearing, with both Senators Kaine and Warner applauding DeJoy for taking accountability.

"We have seen that this problem was not only the implementation of this new initiative but also something that I'm not sure we have been made fully aware of. That there had been bankruptcy in both Washington and Atlanta, contractors who did part of some of the back-office operations, during the real height of the crisis between December and February. It exacerbated that decline," Sen. Warner said.

Warner also acknowledged issues among USPS that are not just specific to Central Virginia but are considered issues nationwide.

"Let me acknowledge that the Postal Service across the board is facing a crisis. We have a dramatic decline of first-class mail delivery, as more and more people communicate online. We have a postal service that, frankly, was built for a different kind of mail delivery system," Warner said.

Both Kaine and Warner shared their frustrations over transparency from USPS officials.

"We stress that you have got to keep the confidence of your consumers. And when there was this stiff-arming of not having the Postal Service even be willing to listen to consumer complaints, it undermines confidence," Warner said. "You undermine confidence, the less people use the mail, less people use the mail, means less revenue. And that means a fiscal hole, the Post Office goes down even worse."

"We need to continue to meet about every 60 days to monitor this performance to make sure it continues to improve," Kaine said.

Warner suggested an ongoing criminal investigation has led to the removal of several USPS employees.

Crimes against mail carriers are also at the top of mind, as it could be a contributing factor to pervasive staffing shortages.

Based on information shared by USPS officials, between March 18, 2023, and now, there have been at least six different reports of assaults or robberies of a mail carrier in Richmond, Chesterfield, and Henrico. Two of those assaults resulted in injuries to the carrier.

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