Postal Updates

More troubling delivery news for U.S. Postal Service

May 13, 2021, 3 PM

Washington Postal Scene by Bill McAllister

The United States mail system is still clogged.

That was the troubling message that the U.S. Postal Service’s board of governors received at its May 7 meeting.

“The [COVID-19] pandemic continues to have impact,” Scott Bombaugh, the Postal Service’s chief technology officer, told the board, citing a persistent problem that has dogged the federal agency for more than a year.

None of the governors, including Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, was happy about the report. They pledged to return mail service to prepandemic levels.

Data released at the meeting showed how serious the problem was in the latest quarter.

Fiscal year 2021 on-time delivery rates in the quarter ended March 31 fell to 78.1 percent from 92.2 percent during the second quarter of fiscal year 2020 (Jan. 1 through March 31). Overnight letters dropped to 92.7 percent from 95.9 percent, and two-day letters fell to 85.4 from 93.6 percent, officials said.

Three-day to five-day mail plummeted to 70.3 percent from 90.9 percent in 2020.

Marketing mail, which has surpassed first-class mail as the Postal Service’s main product, also suffered a decline. It fell to 85 percent from 91.5 percent in the previous year.

Bombaugh told the board that the agency “continues to see improvements” in delivery problems although he said “significant problems” remain,

DeJoy told the board that first-class mail scores are approaching 90 percent, but he warned that performance scores will continue to suffer until structural changes are made to USPS operations.

That was a plug for the 10-year Delivering for America recovery plan that DeJoy and the board have endorsed to end the agency’s deficit operations.

The postmaster general blamed the delivery problems on transportation issues and the impact COVID-19 illnesses have had on the agency’s workers.

“We are not short of critics,” DeJoy said, acknowledging his plan has been attacked by many.

“Yes, I do hear the criticisms,” he said, adding that none of the opponents has come up with an approach to the agency’s problems as his plan has.

Joseph Corbett, the Postal Service’s chief financial officer, had some more troubling news, reporting that marketing mail revenue had fallen by 13.7 percent in the second quarter of fiscal 2021.

He also cautioned that the boom in packages, which has been a bright spot for the agency, should abate as e-commerce shipments return to prepandemic levels.

The USPS could return to a break-even status by fiscal 2023 or 2024 if DeJoy’s rescue plan is fully implemented, Corbett said.

For the second quarter ending March 31, the agency reported a net loss of $82 million, down sharply from the $4.5 billion loss in the same period in 2020.

The much smaller loss resulted from a 25 percent boom in package mail, which the Postal Service said is unlikely to continue.

For the first half of the 2021 fiscal year, net losses hit $1.7 billion, compared to $1.9 billion in the first half of the previous year.

Revenues totaled $40.4 billion, compared to $37.2 billion for the first half of fiscal 2020.

The Delivering for America plan, which is supposed to avert another $160 billion in losses, calls on Congress to implement a number of cost-saving steps.

It also calls for postal rate increases, slower delivery times and reducing payments the USPS must make for health benefits for current and future retirees.

Some Democrats in Congress have been sharply critical of the DeJoy plan and have urged President Joe Biden to appoint three new postal governors to a board dominated by appointees of former president Donald Trump.

The three Biden appointees — Anton Hajjar, Ron Stroman and Amber McReynolds — were not approved in time for the May 7 meeting. 

Both DeJoy and board of governors chairman Ron A. Bloom said they would welcome the new members although the board showed no signs of retreating from DeJoy or his rescue plan.

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