This is part one of a three-part series on why mail is slow and what needs to done to correct it.
Since Ben Franklin became the first U.S. Postmaster in 1775, postal workers have consistently moved massive volumes of mail with plenty of pride during rain, snow, wars, and now a pandemic.
By William J. Kelly
Postal Service workers, says a spokesperson for the American Postal Workers Union, have long prided themselves not only on consistency, but also on timeliness. Each day they hustle to deliver mail within various timelines promised on Post Office signs where you put mail in the slot.
Historically, the goal of the USPS has been to deliver 95 to 96 percent of mail within these promised time-frames. However, years of under-investment in what may be the most popular institution in America has slowed deliveries to 161 million homes and businesses. The delays have left people waiting for crucial medications and left businesses, particularly small businesses, operating on thin margins, waiting for payments that help keep their doors open.
U.S. Postal Service performance statistics show that mail in greater Los Angeles remains slow now long after the November election when ballots were given priority over other types of mail. For instance, 26 percent of periodicals were delivered late in the quarter ending December 31, 2020, compared to 15 percent during the same period in 2019. First class letters, including bill payments, are supposed to be delivered in two-days; 11 percent were delivered late in Southern California.
USPS data show 45 percent of the mail that was supposed to be delivered in three to five days was late. If your Christmas gift didn’t make it on time, it’s probably because 18 percent of all packages in Southern California arrived late during the final quarter of last year.
Then there was the mail that didn’t arrive at all.
A USPS Inspector General’s report issued last month shows that Southern California is the national hot spot for misrouted mail. Nationally, the Inspector General noted only about 0.15 percent of first-class letters were misdirected, but in the seven months it examined last year that amounted to 73 million pieces.
So, yes, everyone remembers how Postmaster General Louis DeJoy took steps to slow the mail in advance of the November election. Everyone also remembers hearing that those steps were supposedly halted and reversed. Indeed, the election went off without a hitch, with a record number of people voting.
But the slowdown clearly continues, not only due to DeJoy, but also due to 15 years of Congress financially starving the nation’s postal system. That’s going to take a concerted national effort to reverse.
The next article in this series will explore what’s behind slower mail and the final one will explore what’s needed to correct it.
> Read Part Two: Why Area Mail Runs Slow?
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