Rep. Evans addresses Postal Service problems

by Walt Maguire
Posted 10/13/21

Missing mail, undelivered packages and even checks being stolen out of the blue mail boxes that sit on many city streets were among the top complaints at U.S. Rep. Dwight Evans’ constituent meeting about the post office, held via Zoom last Thursday.

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Rep. Evans addresses Postal Service problems

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The Cresheim Village Neighbors invited Rep. Dwight Evans (D-PA) to address concerns about mail problems. On Thursday, October 7, Evans addressed a virtual meeting.

The invitation to the public started with “It goes without saying that mail delivery and the US Postal Service are broken, resulting in countless problems for all.”

To facilitate the October 7 discussion, a steering committee of neighbors went through dozens of emails on the Cresheim Village Neighbors listserv and prepared questions reflecting neighbors’ concerns and frustrations. Steve Stroiman, coordinator for the Neighbors, moderated a small but vocal group as Rep. Evans and his Chief of Staff Anuj Gupta went through the list.

Many of the questions were about missing mail, or mail that has been reported as delivered in the tracking system but does not show up for several days. Just earlier the same day, residents of the 200 block of West Haines Street had reported to his office that they were sometimes only seeing mail delivered once or twice a week. Rep. Evans advised reaching out to his office to document and investigate these issues. This requires completing a Privacy Release Form: https://evans.house.gov/services/help-with-a-federal-agency. The form is also available in print by contacting his office at 215-276-0340.

Theft from local mailboxes has been an issue for the past year, with people discovering their checks have been stolen and altered so that, instead of paying a bill, perpetrators have altered the checks, sometimes draining large sums. Gupta said the Post Office has been modifying mailboxes so that they only open an inch, thus making it hard for thieves to retrieve mail through the slot; no one knew which mailboxes were modified in their neighborhood, and several said they no longer used mailboxes at all but took mail to the Post Office. Gupta made a surprising remark in passing, saying that this seems to be a Philadelphia problem, not reported nationally. He directed viewers to the USPS guide on what to do in case of theft: https://www.uspis.gov/tips-prevention/mail-theft

The meeting concluded with Evans and Gupta urging the public to keep them informed so they have a comprehensive view of the situation, and a plan to work with the Neighbors to meet with local post office managers to get more details on the immediate problems.

Ongoing problems with USPS have increased, The September 9 issue of the Local was delivered as much as two weeks late, depending on the neighborhood, when the copies from the printer were inadvertently misdirected to the USPS Network Distribution Center in Jersey City, New Jersey. Kilians Hardware and other local businesses have had similar complaints.

On October 1, the Post Office implemented new changes to make service slower. In an interview with NPR,  USPS spokesperson Kim Frum stated they would be slowing their target delivery time by about 30%, affecting 39% of first-class mail and an additional 7% or periodicals. The delivery standard for first class mail delivered local has not changed, but cross-country has gone from three days to five days as delivery is switched from air to ground. Based on 2020 volume, this could affect as much as 20 million pieces of first-class mail.

This is not a new issue for Rep. Evans; in April 2020 he co-sponsored the Protect Our Post Offices Act, H.R. 6425, which would allocate $25 billion in emergency appropriations to the Postal Service. Congress has not taken action on the bill yet.

Many of the recent changes at the Post Office were prompted by financial problems that resulted from a shift in the funding model used by Congress; in particular, the Post Office, unlike other federal agencies, is required to fund its pension plan 10 years in advance, cutting severely into current operating funds. “There is something in the House called the Postal Service Reform Act,” said Evans. “And as I understand it, that would do things like eliminate calling for the Post Office to pre-fund retirement benefits. It will enable the Post Office to offer some services like licensing and banking. I know that's in a committee in the House. There are things that we as constituents and citizens can do to get to help push that out onto the floor for a general House vote.”

Hours before the meeting, an administrative complaint was filed by attorneys general in 19 states and the District of Columbia to block the USPS 10-year budget-cutting plan that includes slower deliveries, more expensive mailing rates and reduced hours for post offices. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy has championed the plan, citing the financial difficulties the Postal reform Act would address.

To file your complaint with Evans, complete a Privacy Release Form at evans.house.gov/services/help-with-a-federal-agency. The form is also available in print by contacting his office at 215-276-0340. For the USPS guide on what to do in case of theft: uspis.gov.

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