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Rep. Spanberger: Mail delays could be ‘life-threatening’

Posted at 5:07 PM, Aug 19, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-19 21:43:50-04

HENRICO COUNTY, Va., — Leslie Sarr has operated an Etsy online shop from her Henrico home for the past 10 years.

“I have my packages ready to be picked up by the mail carrier every day,” she said. “I’m shipping maybe 10 to 12 packages on average every day. Sometimes more.”

Sarr relies on the United States Postal Service to ship her vintage antique hardware to customers all over the world. But, she’s noticed her packages were arriving days later than normal.

“This is the kind of slow down normally I’d expect to see around Christmas, but in August things are usually running normally smoothly,” Sarr explained.

Postmaster General Louis DeJoy will testify next Monday before Congress, along with the chairman of the Postal Service board of governors. DeJoy is also expected to testify in front of the Senate on Friday.

The Postal Service said it has stopped removing mailboxes and mail-sorting machines amid an outcry from lawmakers.

“I came to the Postal Service to make changes to secure the success of this organization and its long-term sustainability. I believe significant reforms are essential to that objective and work toward those reforms will commence after the election,” DeJoy wrote in a Tuesday statement.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D - California) also called the House back into session over the crisis at the Postal Service aiming to vote on legislation targeting the recent changes.

Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-Henrico) said since the beginning of August her office has received more than 1,600 emails and phone calls from constituents about mail delivery concerns.

RELATED: Take Spanberger's USPS Survey: 'Are you experiencing longer than normal delivery times for your mail?'

“They are not receiving their medication and concerns related to delay paychecks or social security checks,” Spanberger said. “The delays and intentional disruptions of the flow of the U.S. mail is significant and I’m hearing from people all across the 7th district about it.”

She said some of the complaints stated mail delivery has been delayed by at least a week.

Spanberger called the situation “very, very serious” which “could be life-threatening.”

“[DeJoy] put out a directive that no longer allowed or put severe restrictions on overtime. Directives that if mail couldn’t be delayed on one run it should be left at the post office or processing plant. This has created backlogs already just in the short time period,” Spanberger stated.

The Postal Service is among the nation’s oldest and more popular institutions, strained in recent years by declines first-class and business mail, but now hit with new challenges during the coronavirus pandemic.

CBS 6 has reported about delays in metro-Richmond mail deliveries over the years, most recently in November 2019.

The Richmond area’s worst quarter in recent years was October through December 2018, when less than 66% of mail that was supposed to be delivered in three to five days arrived on time, according to available data at the time.

That was a difficult quarter throughout the country for the Postal Service: The nationwide on-time delivery rate for that period was just over 72%.

“There’s a lot of talk the Postal Service being in financial trouble, but a lot of that has to do the actions Congress took place in 2006. No other federal agency has a requirement to pre-fund its retirement 75 years in advance,” Spanberger explained.

The House is expected to vote on legislation that would require the USPS to return to how the organization functioned on January 1, 2020, and freeze any additional changes.

Sarr said the future of her business relies solely on the USPS since her disability makes it nearly impossible to drive.

“This isn’t just a matter of ballots or birthday cards, which are important. But, also the way probably millions of people like me are able to run their business,” she explained.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.