PMG DeJoy apologizes for Postal Service’s slow mail delivery
Washington Postal Scene by Bill McAllister
Postmaster General Louis DeJoy has apologized repeatedly for the slow mail deliveries that have marked his first year in office and vowed that the United States Postal Service will rebound from its poor performance.
Speaking to the Postal Service’s board of governors, which hired him, DeJoy blamed the COVID-19 pandemic and an unexpected surge of packages for causing mail delays across the country that have provoked anger and calls for the resignation of top postal officials.
“All in all, we threw everything we had at it and we fell short,” DeJoy told the governors during a Feb. 9 telephone meeting.
The postmaster general acknowledged that mail service “fell far short” of the federal agency’s standards and promised a new financial plan should speed the recovery.
The postal board’s newly installed chairman, Ron A. Bloom, agreed with DeJoy’s assessment, saying that “our current level of service is acceptable to no one at the Postal Service.”
None of the six governors, all appointees of former President Donald Trump, gave any hint of quitting over the mail problems.
Newly elected board vice chairman Roman Martinez IV praised DeJoy, saying the Postal Service “needs a leader who knows how to lead … and the postmaster general is that person.”
DeJoy, who had warned that a postal rate increase was imminent, said the financially troubled agency’s long-awaited financial plan will restore its health.
He did not offer any details of the plan but said it first must be discussed with unions and other postal stakeholders.
If the plan is not adopted, the USPS is likely to continue to run massive deficits, DeJoy said. The red ink could reach $190 billion in deficits during the next 10 years, he said.
“The future of the Postal Service must not be about placing blame,” DeJoy said, referring to the current mail slowdown.
The impact of the pandemic and slower mail was reflected in the Postal Service’s first-quarter financial results, which were released at the meeting.
For the quarter ended Dec. 31, 2020, typically the best of the year, the Postal Service reported a net operating profit of $318 million, compared to a loss of $748 million during the same period last year.
Thanks to election year mailings, revenues increased to $21.4 billion, up 11 percent from the previous year’s $19.4 billion.
Those revenues were buoyed by a 25 percent growth in package sales, a surge that DeJoy and others said will not last.
Moreover, there was a slip in first-class and marketing mail of about 4 percent for the quarter. That decline accounted for a $423 million loss in revenues, a drop that was “exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic,” the USPS said in a financial filing.
The USPS also said that the package surge is likely to ease because “certain major customers will return to diverting their volume from our network.”
Citing those figures, DeJoy said, “It is essential that the Postal Service adopts comprehensive reforms so that we are able to meet the changing needs of our business and residential customers and ensure our ability to provide reliable, universal mail and package delivery for all Americans.”
The quarterly mail service performance numbers announced at the meeting provided another indicator of the troubles of slower mail service.
The composite index of first-class letters delivered on time fell to 78.4 percent from 90.4 percent in the same quarter a year earlier, a dramatic decline for that index.
Two-day first-class mail fell to 82.8 percent from 92.5 percent, and three-to-five day first-class mail fell to 72.9 percent from 88.4 percent.
Marketing, or advertising, mail also declined to 84.5 percent from 89.1 percent.
The selection of Bloom, a Democrat and former official in the Department of the Treasury during the Obama administration, as chairman could have implications for President Joe Biden’s administration.
Some postal unions have been pushing Biden to quickly fill four vacancies on the board of governors.
One of those seats belongs to Bloom, whose term expired in December.
He is currently serving a holdover term of one year, or until he is replaced by a Senate-confirmed nominee.
Bloom replaces Robert M. Duncan of Kentucky as board chairman.
Duncan, a former Republican Party chairman, was a key player in the selection of DeJoy as postmaster general.
Duncan has come under fire from Congressional Democrats for his role at the USPS. Some newspaper editorials also have been critical of Duncan.
By electing Bloom as their chairman, the governors may be hoping that Biden will not move to replace him, as the American Postal Workers Union has urged.
The governors praised Duncan’s role in rebuilding the board’s role at the Postal Service by giving him the John Wanamaker award, one of the agency’s highest honors.
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