Government Services: US Postal Service
The United States Postal Service seems so simple on the surface. For about 50 cents, you can hand a letter to a mail carrier in Alaska, and a few days letter it will arrive at its intended destination in Puerto Rico.
Even in the era of email, it still provides vital services to many - especially for Americans in rural areas with no broadband Internet access.
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Your mail is taking longer. It's deliberate.
|2021-Oct-01  (Updated: 2021-Nov-05)||By: Barry Shatzman|
When the first consumer tips from the post office include the phrases "plan ahead" and "mail early", you know that mail delivery is about to slow down.
As of Oct. 1, the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) is allowing up to 2 additional days to deliver standard letters and periodicals. Letters that previously were delivered in 3 days now can take 5 days.
Only mail that travels a long distance will be affected. Mail that travels only a short distance still will take just a few days. About half the mail that used to fly across the country in planes now is being hauled in trucks.
In its request filed with the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC) - the Postal Service claimed the changes were needed to improve reliability and save money.
Proposal criticized by organizations
Several organizations challenged the lower standards - including the American Postal Workers Union (APWU), the National Postal Policy Council (NPPC), National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and Public Citizen.
They criticized the disparate impacts on geographic areas, where western states are expected to have more of their mail slowed, while still paying the same as everyone.
They argued that the Postal Service did not conduct studies to determine the disparate impacts on groups such as rural communities, seniors, low-income families, incarcerated people, and those with disabilities.
They argued changes violate Title 39 of the U.S. Code, part of which states that the Postal Service policy must "give the highest consideration to the requirement for the most expeditious collection, transportation, and delivery of important letter mail."
They also voiced concerns about election mail. The Postal Service estimated that approximately 4 percent of election mail would be slowed.
Some are calling it a deliberate move to cripple the Postal Service in order to eventually privatize all mail delivery.
The commission criticized everyone's arguments
The commission acknowledged the requirement for the Postal Service to prioritize quality, but ruled that the new standard would not violate the law by itself. Otherwise, "any decrease in service standards would by default be inconsistent with the policies of [the U.S. Code]," the report stated.
The report also concluded that, even with the changes, the USPS cannot guarantee that it would meet its relaxed goal of delivering 95 percent of mail on time.
On other issues such as whether the public would continue to use the mail service and how they would accept the change, the commission stated that the Postal Service's research was inadequate.
The commission criticized USPS financial arguments
The commission criticized the USPS cost-saving estimate - which was the key to the changes. The Postal Service based its estimate on 2020 costs - a pandemic year in which costs were uncharacteristically high.
Also, the Postal Service's largest budget item has been the requirement that it fund employee pensions 75 years in advance.
But even accepting the Postal Service's analysis, the projected savings would be less than a quarter of one percent, the report states.
Not enough to stop the changes, commission said
The commission does not have the power to prevent the changes. It only provides recommendations. And though it challenged virtually every aspect of the Postal Service's analysis, it concluded that there wasn't a strong enough argument against the changes to recommend they be delayed.
It did issue a warning, however, that the new policies may need to be revisited in the near future...
"Should the Postal Service prove wrong in its predictions in the above areas, the rational basis for the proposal may prove illusory."
USPS refuses court order to sweep for 300,000 ballots
|2020-Nov-03||By: Barry Shatzman|
Update 2020-Nov-3: The Justice Department and Postal Service have refused the federal court's order.
The federal judge overseeing the delivery of mail-in ballots has ordered law enforcement agents to find ballots in mail processing facilities that have yet to be delivered.
According to the Postal Service, 300,000 ballots have received entry scans at processing facilities, but have not received exit scans.
The sweeps will focus on swing states and states with strict absentee ballot deadlines.
For more, read the Washington Post story.Jump to top of page
Order for USPS to restore service levels mostly ignored
|2020-Oct-27  (Updated: 2020-Oct-29)||By: Barry Shatzman|
The District of Columbia District Court has ordered the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) to restore service to original levels before Postmaster General Louis DeJoy ordered changes that slowed down delivery.
The order by Judge Emmet Sullivan requires the USPS to authorize overtime and not leave mail behind. He said the urgency is due to ballots needing to be delivered by election day.
Sullivan also ordered daily updates on deliveries.
Update 2020-Oct-29: On-time delivery for mail has gotten worse in recent weeks - especially in key electorally significant areas, and the USPS does not appear to be complying with Sullivan's order.
Postal Service leaders under scrutiny
|2020-Oct-06  (Updated: 2021-Jun-03)||By: Barry Shatzman|
Update 2021-June-3: The FBI now is investigating DeJoy for the fundraising activity.
Postmaster General Louis DeJoy is being investigated for changes he implemented that have slowed mail delivery and threaten mail-in ballots for the 2020 presidential election.
The chair of the USPS Board of Governors also is facing scrutiny for conflicts of interest.
DeJoy became postmaster general on June 15. A major donor to President Donald Trump, he assumed the position at a time Trump was denigrating voting by mail as a liability to Republicans.
"If you ever agreed to it, you'd never have a Republican elected in this country again," Trump told Fox News.
Trump also has acknowledged that his actions would undermine the Postal Service's ability to process ballots.
Ethics group requests FBI investigation
In August 2020, the public interest organization Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) wrote to FBI Director Christopher Wray requesting a criminal investigation into DeJoy's actions. The Hatch Act prohibits the use of public office for political gain.
"As a member of the Republican Party's fundraising team for its national convention, it is hard to imagine that DeJoy was unaware of the president's or the party's active opposition to voting by mail," the letter states.
The letter contends that "DeJoy's quick policy changes following the president's relentless advocacy and despite OIG's findings regarding the financial boon of election mail and its concerns regarding delays in delivering ballots strongly suggests a nefarious intent."
"After DeJoy began his tenure at USPS, it appears that every major policy decision made by DeJoy had the effect of hampering voting by mail," the letter states.
Did DeJoy pressure employees to contribute?
Former employees of DeJoy have said he pressured them into contributing to the Republican Party.
New Breed Logistics - DeJoy's former company - would reimburse employees for their contributions through bonuses, according to former employees. DeJoy didn't deny the practice, though a spokesperson for him said that DeJoy was not aware that any employee felt pressured.
Reimbursement by a company for political contributions by employees violates federal law.
Inspector General says it is investigating DeJoy
A spokesperson for the USPS Inspector General has confirmed the office has "initiated a body of work to address the concerns raised," CNN reported.
The investigation was requested by several Democratic members of Congress.
Board of Governors Chair was McConnell fundraiser
The chair of the Postal Service's Board of Governors also has deep ties to Republican Party leadership. Robert "Mike" Duncan is a director for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's fundraising organization.
He also has been a leader of the Republican National Committee (RNC) and American Crossroads.
Click here to read the CREW letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray.
Click here to read a 2015 analysis of voting by mail by the USPS Office of Inspector General.
For more, read the Pro Publica story.
USPS destroys machines that sort ballots
|2020-Aug-19  (Updated: 2020-Sep-21)||By: Barry Shatzman|
Less than a month after being in office, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy implemented changes that slowed down mail delivery.
The changes also came just months before the 2020 presidential election. Mail-in ballots could play a significant role in the election if voters avoid polling places due to the risk of exposure to coronavirus.
One of the changes implemented by DeJoy was to instruct employees to leave mail behind at distribution centers if it would delay the carriers from their routes, and deliver the leftover mail the following day.
The Postal Service also removed approximately 700 barcode sorting machines from service. That's twice the number typically removed in a year as they become outdated. The machines read barcodes and sort 36,000 letters every hour - meaning their removal could result in half a billion fewer mail pieces being sorted each day.
Many of the removed machines were the type that would be used to sort mailed ballots.
USPS can't comply with judge's order to restore machines
When ordered by a federal judge to return some of the decommissioned machines to service, DeJoy told the court that they had been stripped for parts.
Witnesses within the USPS have reported, however, that the machines merely were discarded in the trash.
Slowdown in key cities
Mail deliveries have slowed since DeJoy began implementing the changes.
The Postal Service has a stated goal of delivering 95 percent of first-class mail on time, and had been averaging close to that. Since the changes, on-time delivery has fallen below 65 percent in several postal districts.
For more, read the Washington Post story.Jump to top of page
Trump fundraiser to run Postal Service
|2020-Jun-15  (Updated: 2020-Aug-21)||By: Barry Shatzman|
The finance chair for the 2020 Republican National Convention now is the head of the U.S. Postal Service (USPS).
Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, who was named on May 6, has given millions of dollars to President Donald Trump's campaign and the Republican Party.
DeJoy has managed logistics in the private sector. He had no prior experience within the Postal Service.
Officially, the President has no role in appointing a Postmaster General. The Postmaster General is named by the USPS Board of Governors.
The current Board of Governors consists entirely of Trump appointees.
Conflicts of interest
DeJoy and his wife, Aldona Wos, have financial interests in contractors and competitors to the postal service worth tens of millions of dollars. These include XPO Logistics - a mail processing contractor - and Amazon.
Appointed officials are prohibited by law from participating in matters in which their financial interests are directly and predictably affected. As Amazon is both a competitor and customer of the USPS and XPO Logistics is a major contractor, the Postmaster General would be required to influence decisions affecting the companies.
For more, read the Washington Post story.Jump to top of page
Saturday mail delivery to continue, USPS announces
The United States Postal Service will continue to deliver mail on Saturdays, the Postal Service Board of Governors announced.
Saturday mail delivery will continue at least until September 30 - the end of the government's fiscal year. The USPS previously proposed stopping Saturday mail delivery in August. Package delivery would not have been affected.
For more, read the USA Today story.Jump to top of page
USPS plans to stop Saturday mail delivery
The U.S. Postal Service plans to stop delivering letters on Saturdays as early as August. Packages still would be delivered on Saturdays. Post offices still would be open.
It's a money-saving move, U.S. Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe said. The Postal Service lost almost $16 billion last year. Cutting Saturday mail delivery would save about $2 million a year.
For years, however, the Postal Service has been able to cover its expenses with the cost of postage. It receives virtually no money from the federal government. In 2006, however, the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act required that the USPS pay more than $5 billion a year to fund pensions 75 years in advance.