Thursday, October 22, 2020

Internal Postal Service watchdog says changes under new postmaster general slowed mail delivery nationwide

"The independent government watchdog for the United States Postal Service has concluded that a sweeping series of operational changes implemented at the agency by President Donald Trump’s postmaster general 'negatively impacted the quality and timeliness of mail delivery' across the country," Quint Forgey reports for Politico. "In a report released this week in response to various congressional requests, the USPS Office of Inspector General analyzed the cost-cutting measures Postmaster General Louis DeJoy put in place after assuming control of the agency in June — as well as the nearly six dozen strategies initiated by USPS operations executives to achieve financial targets."

The Postal Service's "mail service performance significantly dropped beginning in July 2020, directly corresponding to implementation of the operational changes and initiatives," the report says. 

According to the report, USPS officials didn't research how their changes would affect services, and that documentation and guidance for postal workers on how to follow the new policies was "very limited and almost exclusively oral . . . The resulting confusion and inconsistency in operations at postal facilities compounded the significant negative service impacts across the country," the inspector general wrote. The report also found that documentation of the changes for USPS customers and Congress was "generally accurate but incomplete."

"DeJoy, a former businessman and Republican megadonor, was tapped to lead the cash-strapped USPS this summer as the White House escalated its unsubstantiated attacks on mail-in voting — provoking widespread criticism of DeJoy’s organizational restructuring at the agency," Forgey reports.

An internal performance report leaked to House Democrats showed that "on-time" first-class mail delivery was down about 8 percent since DeJoy's appointment, on-time delivery of periodicals (including rural newspapers) was down 9.57%, and internal processing time was down 6.49%.

USPS agreed last week to reverse the changes nationwide, settling a lawsuit filed by Montana Gov. Steve Bullock. "The Postal Service agreed to reverse all changes, which included reduced retail hours, removal of collection boxes and mail sorting machines, closure or consolidation of mail processing facilities, restriction of late or extra trips for timely mail delivery, and banning or restricting overtime," Iris Samuels reports for The Associated Press.

Bullock sued the service and DeJoy on Sept. 9, arguing that changes made in June decreased access to mail services in Montana. That not only made it harder for Montanans to vote by mail, he alleged, but also delayed delivery of job applications, payments, medical prescriptions, and more.

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