Mail delivery delays continue across the country

Harper Ho
York Dispatch
U.S. Postal Service carrier Michelle Rehmeyer delivers mail at a residence on East Center Street during her route in Glen Rock Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021. She's worked for the Postal Service for 16 years. Bill Kalina photo

You've got mail — somewhere, West Manchester Township native Judy Givens hopes.

Although she knows the U.S. Postal Service is grappling with a post-holiday and pandemic quagmire, Givens is furious that the agency lost several pieces of her mail while others continue to trickle in late.

Givens, 74, who's self employed and has been in the real estate business for 32 years, said her profession relies heavily on reliable mail — otherwise people might lose their homes.

Escrow checks, for example, which must be deposited within a narrow time window and are normally processed through the mail, Givens said, can't be done anymore and have to be sent through certified mail or other methods.

Givens said she doesn't understand why the United States government can't sort the mess out and deliver.

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"Get the people's mail out. I don't care how you have to do it. There's too many resources to our government in order to make this work. Too many resources. Other people don't have resources and they handle it," Givens said. "There isn't any excuse for it."

Givens started seeing delays in mail delivery beginning in August, when she sent two separate checks worth nearly $10,000 to pay her taxes.

Judy Givens poses with an empty mail bin at her workplace Monday, Feb. 15, 2021. The real estate agent is upset with the U.S. Postal Service's performance. Bill Kalina photo

"Lost. OK. Lost. To this day, they still have not been found," Givens said. "So I had to cancel them, which costs about 70 dollars."

She had to hand deliver the checks to two different school districts, which Givens said she didn't want to do because of COVID-19, adding that it's not right she was penalized through no fault of her own.

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She then sent another check in November to pay for lawn care services, but again, "gone—never found it." 

Desai Abdul-Razzaaq, a USPS spokesperson, said in a broadly worded statement that the organization faced pressure on service performance across the board throughout the peak season.

He said it managed "a record of volume while also overcoming employee shortages due to the ongoing surge in COVID-19 cases."

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Abdul-Razzaaq also attributed delays to winter storms and "ongoing capacity challenges with airlifts and trucking for moving historic volumes of mail."

He said that the Postal Service anticipates continued improvements in service performance.

The Postal Service became a political flashpoint last year when the Trump administration made leadership and operational changes that included slashing overtime hours, enforcing stricter delivery schedules and gutting some sorting machines, including the ones in central Pennsylvania, according to the Washington Post. 

The central Pennsylvania region has only two sorting centers — one in Harrisburg and the other near Allentown — that sort all mail sent in the region, according to the Pennsylvania Postal Workers Union.

The changes came in rapid-fire more than a month into Postmaster General Louis DeJoy's June takeover, and service has suffered ever since, according to the Washington Post.

U.S. Postal Service carrier Michelle Rehmeyer delivers mail along Park Avenue in Glen Rock during her route Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021. She's worked for the Postal Service for 16 years. Bill Kalina photo

Trump administration officials claimed the move was designed to streamline a cash-strapped agency. Congressional Democrats, however, accused Trump of attempting to undermine voters' use of mail-in ballots, according to the Washington Post.

Mike Stephenson, president of the Pennsylvania Postal Workers Union, told The York Dispatch in August that the decisions by DeJoy were sabotaging the Postal Service's ability to efficiently deliver mail. Stephenson couldn't be reached for additional comments.

Congressional Democrats have said they want a new postmaster general — but despite the arrival of President Joe Biden, turnover at the presidential level doesn’t necessarily guarantee leadership changes within the USPS.

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DeJoy, who is backed by the current U.S. Postal Service’s governing board, won't be easily removed unless the nine-member governing board changes, according to the Washington Post, but congressional Democrats are pressing Biden to install new board members to create a majority bloc that could oust the postmaster.

Biden’s press secretary, Jen Psaki, was asked last month about the Postal Service and said she wasn’t aware of plans to oust DeJoy but noted the administration supports mail carriers.

The removal of sorting machines and reduction of available overtime for employees under DeJoy's leadership added to the maelstrom, and the resulting slowdown not only affected ballots but also created a backlog that continues.

The slowdown wreaked havoc on all sorts of businesses and on ordinary people such as Givens, who said she still hasn't received her annual Christmas cards from friends.

Giant Food Stores reported that in December it saw a delay in delivery of coupons that were sent to selected customers, so the company made adjustments.

U.S. Postal Service carrier Michelle Rehmeyer walks along Park Avenue in Glen Rock during her route Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021. She's worked for the Postal Service for 16 years. Bill Kalina photo

"Customer satisfaction is our priority, so as soon as we became aware that the paper coupon had been caught up in mail delays and arrived after the expiration date, we immediately worked to resolve, extending the life of the coupon," said Ashley Flower, Giant public relations manager. 

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As for Givens, the continued issues with the Postal Service have shaken her confidence in the federal agency. 

"All I know is I want my mail. I don't know what they're doing, and everybody is having a fit about it," Givens said. "I am not putting one other check in the mail ever again, ever."