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Mail delivery in Baltimore tanked during pandemic and remains ‘especially challenged,’ postal official says

The Baltimore postal district was “challenged for years” to deliver prompt mail service and then “really tanked when COVID hit” and remains a problem, a Postal Service official told a Senate panel Tuesday.

Tammy L. Whitcomb, the service’s inspector general, testified that her office intends “to get underneath the hood” in Baltimore, Chicago and New York “and really see what has caused the problems for years but really tanked” during the coronavirus pandemic.

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“We have a team that is ready,” Whitcomb told a Senate appropriations subcommittee chaired by Sen. Chris Van Hollen, the Maryland Democrat. “They may have actually even done field visits already in Baltimore looking at nine different delivery units and the areas served that are especially challenged.”

In the first three months of this year, Baltimore was last in the nation with 61.7% on-time delivery of two-day service, according to the inspector general’s website. Some other urban districts — including Seattle, San Diego and San Francisco — reported on-time delivery rates over 90%.

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Baltimore also was last in three-to-five-day mail. The website said 24.9% of that type of mail was delivered on time in the area.

Data was not yet available for the second quarter of the year ending June 30.

“For the last year I’ve been hearing from thousands of constituents — thousands — about the slow postal delivery, and I share their frustration and their anger at this unacceptable situation,” Van Hollen said during a budget hearing of the Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government.

“Medical shipments have gone missing, many small businesses cannot get their products to customers, and people are getting hit with late fees for bill payments that did not arrive on time because of mail delivery delays,” the senator said.

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A USPS spokesperson did not respond late Tuesday to a request for comment about the hearing.

Complaints about delays in customers receiving checks, letters, prescription medications, presents and holiday cards have dogged the Postal Service during the coronavirus pandemic.

The issue became politicized during last year’s presidential election because Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, a former Republican fundraiser appointed during the administration of then-President Donald Trump, took actions that critics said were intended to slow the delivery of mail-in ballots.

DeJoy has said he is making the agency more efficient and fiscally sound. In March, he announced a 10-year plan, including higher prices for postage and extending a window for delivering first-class mail from one to three days to one to five days.

U.S. Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger of Baltimore County asked Whitcomb’s office in May to audit six post office locations — Dundalk, Essex, Middle River, Parkville, Rosedale and Towson — that he said face issues that are “disproportional both in volume of complaints and severity.”

Jaime Lennon, a spokeswoman for Ruppersberger, said Tuesday that the congressman expects the audit report in the fall.

Karen Meyers, a Baltimore small business owner, testified Tuesday that mail issues delayed critical communication — including invoices — with a printing vendor.

Meyers said many people already seem to distrust government institutions, and that the lingering mail problem “certainly doesn’t help the situation.”

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