Frustrated lawmakers made surprise visits Monday to post offices in Dundalk and Essex, as the U.S. Postal Service said it was reviewing its staffing following complaints of severe mail delivery delays in the Baltimore area.
“They need a lot more people,” U.S. Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger of Baltimore County said after speaking to customers and managers at the two postal facilities. “It’s a mess. We are setting ourselves up for a perfect storm as more Americans turn to mail.”
The Postal Service said in a statement that it would make any needed “adjustments.”
Ruppersberger, a Democrat, said his office has received dozens of constituent complaints, particularly about service in Dundalk.
Rep. John Sarbanes, a Baltimore County Democrat, recently joined other federal lawmakers in expressing concern that the Postal Service’s new cost-reduction policies will reduce delivery trips, potentially leaving mail on docks or workroom floors.
“Rest assured, we take customer concerns seriously, remain committed to delivering mail in a timely manner, and appreciate customers’ patience,” USPS spokeswoman Freda Sauter said in an email Monday. “We continue to review our staffing and scheduling and make necessary adjustments in order to enhance our services.”
The Postal Service did not detail specific staffing or scheduling changes, and declined a request to make officials available for interviews.
Seeking answers, Ruppersberger and state Del. Ric Metzgar, a Baltimore County Republican who joined the congressman Monday at the post offices, said they hope to meet soon with Eric Gilbert, Baltimore’s postmaster.
The lawmakers said they were awaiting a response on when such a meeting would take place.
Mail service delays have been especially painful during the coronavirus pandemic because so many customers rely on deliveries of unemployment debit cards, retirement checks, medications and, for the November presidential election, absentee ballots.
Critics say President Donald Trump’s new postmaster general, Louis DeJoy, has reduced overtime and imposed other measures that have slowed service.
Democratic Maryland Sen. Ben Cardin recently faulted “a combination of understaffing resulting from COVID-19 cases and seriously flawed policy changes” by the Trump administration.
“As Americans continue to rely on USPS for everything from paying bills, to prescription medicine deliveries, to exercising their right to vote, we cannot let these problems persist,” said U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen, also a Maryland Democrat.
DeJoy, said Friday that despite the pandemic leading unprecedented numbers to vote by mail, the agency “has ample capacity to deliver all mail” securely and on time for the November presidential and congressional elections.
Last Friday, a line stretched out from the Dundalk post office throughout the morning as frustrated residents tried to track down missing mail.
Metzgar said about a dozen customers were lined up inside both the Dundalk and Essex post offices when he and Ruppersberger visited Monday.
“A lot of the seniors had ordered prescriptions in the mail. One guy was waiting for 2 1/2 weeks for annuity checks,” Metzgar said.
He and Ruppersberger said they were told by managers about staffing shortages caused by coronavirus-related concerns, vacations and other issues.
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Of the customers the lawmakers spoke with in line, “each and every one had complaints,” Ruppersberger said.