USPS Inspector General testifies on issues with mail service

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Local U.S. Senators held a hearing in the nation’s capital Tuesday to address issues with the United States Postal Service. U.S. Senators Chris Van Hollen (Md.) and Chris Coons (Del.) met with the USPS’ Inspector General Tammy Whitcomb. The senators say they’ve been receiving thousands of complaints about mail delays from constituents. “For the last year, I’ve been hearing from thousands of constituents – thousands – about the slow postal delivery. I share their frustration and and their anger at this unacceptable situation,” said Sen. Van Hollen.

Sen. Coons says constituents are worried about getting medications and bills on time. He says small business owners are also facing struggles as a result of the issues with USPS. “I’ve gotten complaints from veterans who weren’t getting their medications in the mail. I’ve gotten complaints from small businesses that weren’t getting payment checks into them or weren’t able to get services out. I’ve gotten complaints from just families who didn’t get birthday cards,” said Sen. Coons.

Whitcomb says some USPS facilities were struggling even before the pandemic, and now they’re just trying to play catch up. “The Postal Service has been one of those places that has been generally resilient when a natural disaster occurs. They can usually come in and recover pretty quickly in the event of a natural disaster that’s localized. COVID hit them really hit them in all their weak spots,” said Inspector General Whitcomb.

Whitcomb testified that some of the more major issues plaguing the USPS right now are sweeping policy and procedure changes that came with the induction of Postmaster General Louis DeJoy. She says when he asked for those changes to staffing and delivery times, they were never put down on paper. The Inspector General says that led to inconsistency in service across the country. “When you combine the 50 or so changes that the postal executive team instituted, along with some of the larger, broader changes that the Postmaster General brought in, particularly around late and extra trips, this had a really significant impact on service because it was happening along with employee availability issues and an increased number of packages in the mail because of COVID,” said Whitcomb.

The Inspector General also testified that the USPS simply does not have enough money to keep up with the higher demand for postal service amid COVID-19. She says that’s why they’re requesting an additional $13 million in their budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2022. “Over the past ten years our budget has not grown meaningfully, and has not kept up with the rising costs, including mandated increases to salary and employer contribution rates. Without additional funding to support these increases, we have had to reduce the number of full time employees available to support our work by nearly 16%,” said Whitcomb.

Whitcomb also says that the Inspector General’s office is working to get more boots on the ground. That way, she says they can visit more USPS facilities to further identify what exactly is causing all these issues. “When we go out we look for the causes of those challenges, and we make specific recommendations to the local management to address the issues found,” said Whitcomb.

Looking further ahead, Whitcomb says the Inspector General’s office is planning to request $17 million more for Fiscal Year 2023. She says that money will help keep that work going, and prepare the USPS for the holiday season and the 2022 primary elections. Whitcomb says with that money, they could also form audit group to provide continual monitoring of services. “Additional resources would allow us to provide this type of near real time monitoring on a more frequent and national basis as the Postal Service implements network changes. This monitoring would enable increased transparency regarding service during the holiday mailing season, and next year’s midterm elections,” said Whitcomb.

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