USPS

Biden taps three for Postal Service board; signals possible move on DeJoy

By JENNIFER MANDATO,Capital News Service Washington Bureau

President Joe Biden on Wednesday nominated three people to fill vacancies on the United States Postal Service Board of Governors.

The nominations came the same day Louis DeJoy apologized to a congressional panel about poor mail service but insisted the problems existed before he took over the USPS.

Congressional Democrats have written letters and publicly called on the president to fill board vacancies in a move that could ultimately result in DeJoy being out of a job. 

The board vacancies were a major topic of debate during a Wednesday hearing of the House Oversight and Reform Committee.

Ron Bloom, the board chairman, told lawmakers that the board has lacked full attendance for at least six or seven years. The 11-member board has nine members in staggered terms chosen by the president. The board selects the postmaster general, and then the board and the postmaster general appoint the deputy postmaster general (a position also currently vacant).

As the board is currently made up of six white males, Rep. Cori Bush, D-Missouri, called for diversity.

“An agency of over 640,000 employees that come from every walk of life and serve the entire American public should have representation at the top reflective of the broader American population,” she said. 

She asked  DeJoy:  “Do you see it as a problem that the Board of Governors for the United States Postal Service looks like a millionaire white boys club?”

It appears that Biden’s nominees are intended to address that lack of diversity and all have some degree of experience with the postal industry.

Anton Hajjar is the former general counsel of the American Postal Workers Union (APWU) and has also served as an adviser and pro bono attorney in employment discrimination cases.

Amber McReynolds is the CEO of the National Vote at Home Institute, a non-partisan, non-profit dedicated to expanding and improving vote-by-mail systems in all 50 states.

The third nominee is Ronald Stroman, who recently served as deputy postmaster general and chief governmental relations officer for the USPS.

Biden’s nominees will all have to be confirmed by the Senate. If approved, the newly-filled board could move in the direction Democrats are hoping for - adding two men of color and a woman - and create a majority to replace DeJoy, a donor to former President Donald Trump.
 
DeJoy maintained that many of the problems at the Postal Service existed long before he became postmaster general.

“The years of financial stress, under-investment, unachievable service standards and lack of operational precision have resulted in a system that does not have adequate resilience to adjust and adapt to changing circumstances,” he said.

Some committee members were less than impressed with this approach.

Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Kensington, scoffed at DeJoy’s plan to lengthen mail delivery times.

“It sounds like your solution to the problems you’ve identified is to surrender,” Raskin said. “Because the mail has been late under your leadership we’re just gonna change the standards and build it into the system that it will be late.”

Throughout the hearing, DeJoy alluded to a “strategic plan.” He told Rep. Kweisi Mfume, D-Baltimore, that plan would be ready in the next two weeks and that he is “always happy” to return before the committee and explain the details of it.

But Rep, Katie Porter, D-California, was skeptical.

“I've heard that you have a new strategic plan, but I'm really concerned that this plan may neither be strategic nor a plan,” she said.

Earlier in the day, redesigned Postal Service delivery trucks were unveiled and are set to replace current vehicles that are, on average, 25 years old. The “next generation delivery vehicle” is set to take to the streets in 2023 and will include increased safety features – shockingly, airbags – and more cargo space. Some of the fleet also will be electric.

Another issue facing the Postal Service is Medicare integration for Postal Service employees. 

The USPS is the only agency required to pre-fund employees’ retirement funds. Only 73 percent of Postal Service retirees are enrolled in the program, and if the Medicare integration is passed it would require current employees to enroll once they turn 65.

Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-New York, and chairwoman of the panel, said that Medicare integration would save the USPS $10 billion over the next 10 years, to which DeJoy said that projections on his end show at least $30 billion in savings over that same time frame.

Each witness, including Bloom and Mark Dimondstein, president of the APWU, announced support for Medicare integration.

 

Capital News Service is a program of Virginia Commonwealth University's Robertson School of Media and Culture. Students in the program provide state government coverage for a variety of media outlets in Virginia.

 

 

Mail Often Arrives Late in Richmond Area, Data Shows

By Jaclyn Barton, Capital News Service

RICHMOND — Rachel Westfall, who lives in Richmond’s Jackson Ward neighborhood, says her mail service has always been hit or miss. But since April, there have been a lot more misses.

“My personal property tax check apparently never made it to City Hall, even though I mailed it at the beginning of April, two months before the due date,” Westfall said.

Her complaint is a common one in the Richmond area, which has some of the worst mail delivery in the country, according to data from the U.S. Postal Service. Last spring, less than 84% of the region’s first-class mail was delivered on time. Only two service areas in the U.S. had a worse on-time delivery rate.

According to the Postal Service, single-piece first-class mail service is the least expensive and fastest option for mailing items such as postcards, letters and large flat envelopes. Delivery time is measured from the collection box drop point to delivery.

Every quarter, the service posts on its website data showing what percentage of first-class mail arrives on time in each of its service districts.

One measure looks at mail that is supposed to arrive within three to five days. On that metric, the Richmond area has been below the national average since the summer of 2017.

For example, between April and June of this year, 86.5% of the mail nationwide arrived on time, the latest quarterly performance report shows. But for the Richmond area, the figure was 83.8%. Only two service areas in the U.S. — both in New York City — had on-time delivery rates lower than Richmond’s.

The Richmond area’s worst quarter in recent years was October through December of 2018, when less than 66% of the mail that was supposed to be delivered in three to five days arrived on time. That was a difficult quarter throughout the country for the Postal Service: The nationwide on-time delivery rate for that period was just over 72%.

The Postal Service also measures on-time delivery for mail that ought to arrive in two days. On that yardstick, too, the Richmond area is usually below the national average.

Between April and June, for example, about 92% of two-day mail in the Richmond area arrived on time, the Postal Service’s data showed. Nationwide, the figure was about 94%.

The Postal Service’s target is to deliver 96.5% of two-day mail and 95.3% of three- to five-day mail to arrive on time. The service set those targets in 2014 but has never met them.

The Postal Service’s media relations staff did not respond to several requests for comment about the performance data.

Mail delivery depends on several factors. Mistakes during sorting can occur at the post office by machines or clerks. Moreover, mail carriers may have more than 1,000 addresses per route.

On social networks such as Nextdoor.com, many Richmond-area residents have complained about poor mail service.

“We constantly get mail in our box with someone else’s address on it — several times a week. A few months ago, I even got some poor person’s medication delivered to me by mistake. I had to carry it several blocks to the proper recipient,” a resident of Richmond’s Highland Park neighborhood commented on Nextdoor.com.

Another said, “I have missing mail every month. This has been a problem for several years. I have called and wrote the Postal Service with no resolution. This has caused me anxiety.”

Such complaints became so prevalent that U.S. Rep. A. Donald McEachin of Richmond held a town hall meeting with his constituents about the issue last spring.

“The constituents of the 4th Congressional District deserve reliable and predictable mail delivery. They deserve the best quality service, and right now that is not happening,” McEachin said in a press release in April.

Westfall, a private music teacher in Richmond, said she tried reaching out to her local post office about her missing tax-payment check to City Hall. But she said she was unable to speak with someone who could resolve the issue.

Eventually, Westfall said, she was told to fill out a “missing mail” form on the Postal Service’s website. She said she experienced error messages and technical difficulties on the site and couldn’t find a technical support number to help her.

After resubmitting her request for three weeks, she received a confirmation email that her request had been submitted. Claims remain active for seven days and then are deleted.

Westfall’s lost check appeared at the end of July. She knew the check resurfaced only because she had put a stop payment on the missing check and was notified by her bank that someone had tried to process it.

Westfall said no one from the Postal Service ever contacted her about the missing mail.

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