August 18, 2020

Feinstein, Peters, Senate Dems Call on Postmaster General to Explain Operational Changes, Effect on Vote-by-Mail

            Washington—Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) yesterday joined the entire Senate Democratic caucus in sending a letter calling on Postmaster General Louis DeJoy to answer urgent questions on changes to the U.S. Postal Service under his leadership that are adversely affecting mail delivery for Americans across the country and may affect the ability of Americans to vote by mail in the November election. After the letter was sent, Postmaster General DeJoy agreed to appear before the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee on Friday, August 21, 2020.

            “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,” wrote the senators.

            “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 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.”

            In July, Senator Feinstein and Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) introduced the Postal Service Emergency Assistance Act, legislation that would provide the U.S. Postal Service with up to $25 billion to cover revenue losses or operational expenses resulting from COVID-19.

            Full text of the letter is available here and below.

August 17, 2020

 

Mr. Louis DeJoy

Postmaster General and Chief Executive Officer

United States Postal Service

475 L’Enfant Plaza, S.W.

Room 4012

Washington, D.C. 20260

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:

  • 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.
  • 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. 
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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?
  • What, if any, plans are under consideration for further post office or facility hour reductions, suspensions, closures, or consolidations?
  • 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.

Sincerely,

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