November 20, 2021
Dear Fellow Marylanders:
Can you believe it is the end of November already? Because of COVID-19, last year may have felt like 3,650 days instead of 365, but 2021 has flown by. Unfortunately, the pandemic is not quite finished with us yet, but we can take refuge in the fact that Hanukah starts in eight days and Christmas is only about five weeks away. Kwanzaa starts December 26.
For the procrastinators among us, this means we need to start thinking soon about shipping presents to family and friends. It could be a homemade batch of cookies, clothing, or maybe that much sought toy. Whatever you are sending across town or across the country, you are probably thinking about whether you want to trust your precious delivery to the U.S. Postal Service (USPS).
The U.S. Postal Service is one of the oldest government services we have. Benjamin Franklin was appointed the very first Postmaster General by the Continental Congress in 1775. Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution grants Congress the authority “To establish Post Offices.”
Despite how much things have changed since then, mail delivery remains an intrinsically governmental function that is essential to health and wellbeing of Marylanders – and not only during the holiday season.
There still are a few of us who receive bills, and pay them, by mail. Many health insurance companies use mail-order services to provide prescription drugs at reduced prices. Small businesses (and large) use the USPS to ship all varieties of products nationwide. Particularly in rural areas, the USPS may be the only entity that can reach every person in this country with a delivery wherever they live and/or work.
The USPS has been facing financial problems for years. The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated many staffing challenges they faced, as people across the country were shopping online more to avoid having to go inside of stores. Mail carriers, sorters and other USPS personnel were on the front lines and at great risk throughout this pandemic. In the National Capital Region alone, more than 1,600 postal workers tested positive for COVID-19 and at least 7 died.
Seemingly piling on to the difficulties, the Postal Service leadership appointed under the prior administration, including Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, has implemented significant procedural and operational changes resulting in slower service. These decisions mostly have been made without consultation with, or input from, the public, Congress or the postal unions.
The resulting delays have affected the Baltimore Metropolitan area (which covers roughly half of Maryland) particularly badly. I appreciate all of you who have reached out to my office with details of your particular issues.
According to the Postal Service’s own data, the Baltimore region has some of the worst service in the nation. First-Class Mail designated for three-to-five-day delivery was on time only 32.4% of the time in the second quarter of fiscal year (FY) 2021. The on-time performance of three-to-five-day mail in Baltimore has rebounded in Q3, but is only on-time slightly more than half of the time (59% on-on time).
These findings are furthered by a recent USPS Office of the Inspector General report released earlier this month after requests from my colleagues, Congressmen Dutch Ruppersberger and Kweisi Mfume. This report assessed nine Baltimore-area post offices with high volumes of complaints, looking at deliveries between October 2019 and June of 2021. These locations include the Dundalk, Essex, Rosedale, Parkville, Middle River, Loch Raven, Clifton East End Station, Druid Station and Carroll Station. The findings included a total of nearly 1 million delayed pieces of mail and packages, inaccurate reporting of mail delays/conditions, and other problems.
Another Inspector General report on the Efficiency of Operations at the Baltimore Processing and Distribution Center is expected to be released shortly.
Reforms are necessary for the long-term solvency of the postal service and my staff and I have heard from postal workers’ unions that some of the procedural changes that the USPS leadership has made may be worthwhile. However, major reforms to a public service like the USPS must be founded on public engagement and transparency, recognizing that the USPS is a public service, not a for-profit corporation.
I remain deeply opposed to any proposals for privatization of the USPS. The overall approach to reform must change, and that starts at the leadership level. I have long called for DeJoy to step down for many different reasons. Just yesterday, President Biden nominated two new individuals to serve on the Postal Service Board of Governors. I expect they will seek out commonsense reforms that will prioritize service and transparency for this essential public service. I will continue to work with my colleagues in Congress to ensure the USPS is functional and accountable for the American people.
As we approach what may again be a challenging season, I encourage you to have patience with postal workers themselves. As you rush to get your holiday packages out to your loved ones, plan ahead as best possible, and take a moment to thank the women and men of the U.S. Postal Service who have been overwhelmed, but on the job, during some of the most difficult days this nation has ever faced.
Thank you. Have a safe and joyous Thanksgiving holiday.