As we continue to face the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, Americans are depending on the United States Postal Service (USPS) now more than ever and we have all experienced the resulting mail delays and headaches. After a deluge of constituent complaints, I visited the Dundalk and Essex post offices over the summer, along with Delegate Rick Metzger. At the time, we were assured that things would get better. Then we were told that improvement would come after the holidays.
But problems persist, creating unacceptable personal and financial hardship for my constituents. My colleagues and I have heard from constituents who have been charged late fees when their bill payments aren’t received on time, damaging credit scores. Small businesses are unable to fill orders. Some residents have gone weeks without receiving mail – including paychecks and, even worse, life-saving prescriptions.
And though the delays have been reported across the country, my office is seeing a disproportionate number of complaints from the east side of Baltimore County. In fact, of the 218 postal-service related calls received and cases opened in the past month, exactly half have been from Dundalk, Essex and Middle River.
I’ve stressed my concerns regarding the east end of the county specifically with our area’s District Manager and spoke directly with the Baltimore Postmaster. Our postmaster assured me that Dundalk and Essex are at the top of his priority list and that delivery workers may be reassigned to our east-side communities until we see 100 percent service levels. Staffing will be monitored more closely and leadership changes could take place.
I have asked our District Manager to provide a thorough accounting of missed deliveries over the last several months, to detail the current backlog and identify a date by which we can all expect acceptable service standards to return. I also requested more information to verify staffing shortages are indeed a result of COVID-19.
It’s important to note that our local postal workers tell me that delays are rooted not just in volume and staffing shortages, but also operational changes implemented by USPS Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, who was appointed by President Trump despite no previous postal experience and who inexplicably removed blue boxes and took mail sorting machines offline in the middle of a pandemic. Although USPS is an independent agency within the Executive Branch and typically receives almost no taxpayer funding, Congress provided it with a $10 billion loan at the start of the pandemic – and later turned it into a grant. Last week, I joined my colleagues on Maryland’s Congressional delegation in asking DeJoy to detail, specifically, how he intends to spend this money to alleviate pandemic-related backlogs. I’ve also asked House leaders to include more funding in the forthcoming COVID-19 response package to hire additional workers and provide for overtime.
Constituent service has been, and always will be, my top priority. I encourage any Second District constituent who needs help with mail delivery to contact my office. The United States Postal Service is an essential service – enshrined in the U.S. Constitution – upon which Americans rely for their daily needs. I will continue to do all that I can to ensure this vital service remains available to the citizens who need it now more than ever.