Postmaster General Louis DeJoy’s new 10-year plan for the cash-strapped U.S. Postal Service has not been met with a stamp of approval.
“My letter to the USPS Board of Governors can be summarized in two words: Fire DeJoy,” U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), said in a March 25 tweet.
DeJoy’s plan, unveiled on March 23, includes slower service, higher rates and reduced post office hours. He said the changes will close a $160 billion budget shortfall over the next decade.
“The COVID pandemic led to even sharper declines in First-Class mail and marketing mail and historic levels of demand for package delivery, dramatically reinforcing the urgent case for change,” DeJoy wrote in his introduction to the plan.
The American Postal Workers Union, in response, approved of goals for better profitability or efficiency, but said “any proposals that would either slow the mail, reduce access to post offices, or further pursue the failed strategy of plant consolidation will need to be addressed.”
The postal service was already the target of heavy criticism, as more than 50 House Democrats wrote a letter to President Joseph R. Biden Jr. on March 18, calling on him to replace the Board of Governors.
“The Postal Service is in free fall, and until the February 24, 2021, House Committee on Oversight and Reform hearing, the Board of Governors only public statement has been to the media — stating that they are ‘tickled pink’ with the new postmaster general,” the representatives’ letter states.
Biden in February nominated three new members for vacancies on the board, which is required to be bipartisan. The nominees are awaiting Senate confirmation.
Duckworth also called for DeJoy to be fired, in a post on her website on March 25.
“DeJoy’s pathetic 10-year plan to weaken USPS demonstrates that he is a clear and present threat to the future of the Postal Service and the well-being of millions of Americans, particularly small business owners, seniors and veterans, who depend on an effective and reliable USPS to conduct daily business, safely participate in democracy and receive vital medication,” she wrote.
Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.), chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said in a statement, “Cuts to service standards … would adversely impact USPS customers across the nation.
“We have already seen the disastrous consequences of harmful operational changes on millions of Americans, including for veterans, small business owners, rural residents, underserved communities and seniors,” he said.
He launched an oversight investigation in August 2020, after receiving over 7,500 complaints from across the country. Peters’ update in December attributed the disruptive delays directly to changes made after DeJoy’s appointment in May 2020.
Small business impact
Small businesses relied heavily on the postal service during the pandemic.
Chef Panderina Soumas of Bossier City, Louisiana, who makes Louisiana Creole Food Mixes and pecan pralines at Soumas Heritage Creole Creations, said delays have affected her business.
“Before COVID, access to supplies that I order out of state would normally take three-to-five business days,” she said. “This has been extended to well over a week or more.
She added that “customers seem to be getting deliveries lately in a timely manner, both locally and abroad.”
Tonya Peace, owner of Durham, North Carolina-based Peace & Light Candle Co., said she had supply delays before finding a local supplier. “I’ve had supplies on back order, but found ways to get past that with similar options.”
The owner of Wanda’s Cooking in Oakland, California, chef Wanda Blake, had a smoother experience. “In all of my shipments,” she said, “I had only one sidetrack.The staff has been helpful. I’m grateful because I hear others have troubles.”
Elsewhere, depending on the product, already strained businesses incurred losses due to lost packages, product expirations and damages.
A memo prepared in August 2020 for Daniel Kowalski, counselor to former Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, stated that increased postal package volume from April 20, 2020, resulted in the highest cash on hand in a significant rise in revenue, due to the pandemic.
Postal service revenues from March-August 2020 reached $28.5 billion, and cash on hand was $15 billion, the “highest in the history of USPS,” according to the memo.
The postal service has a record of long-term shortfalls that continue to grow. The service, which employs some 600,000 people, is required by a Bush-era law since 2006 to pre-fund employee pensions and retirees’ health benefits.
It has operated in the red since 2007, according to the Brookings Institution.
The Postal Service delivered 173 million individual pieces per day, and operated more than 31,000 post offices nationwide as of fiscal year 2019. It has operated for over 245 years, since Benjamin Franklin‘s appointment as the first postmaster general in 1775.
The Postal Service must file for an advisory opinion from the Postal Regulatory Commission at least 90 days before implementing proposed changes. The commission does not have veto power. Much like a corporate board, the Board of Governors establishes policies.
(Edited by Judith Isacoff and Kristen Butler)