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August 21, 2020

Maryland’s federal lawmakers respond to mail service changes

Credit: The Garrett County Republican, Joseph Hauger

WASHINGTON — Federal lawmakers representing Western Maryland are calling for answers from the nation’s new postmaster general on his reforms and whether the Postal Service is capable of handling a mail-in election, with one lawmaker pressing for the postmaster general’s resignation.

President Donald Trump’s appointee, Louis DeJoy, has raised controversy over delays in delivery and service cutbacks as millions will be mailing their election ballots to avoid visiting polling places over COVID-19 concerns.

However, DeJoy on Tuesday announced that all changes to the mail service would be placed on hold until after the Nov. 3 election. The Postal Service cuts would include eliminating staff overtime, altering operations at state distribution centers, and removing mail sorting equipment.

DeJoy’s announcement came in light of the threat of federal lawsuits from 20 blue states’ attorneys general — including Maryland’s Brian Frosh.

“Trump attacks on the postal service are designed to disrupt the election. They strike at the core of our democracy,” said Frosh, a Democrat. “That is bad enough, but Trump and DeJoy are also hurting innocent bystanders: Americans who are waiting for their medicine or their Social Security checks. This conduct is harmful, illegal and unconstitutional.”

DeJoy has said the changes are needed to improve the agency’s “dire financial situation,” and has denied allegations that the cuts are being made at the president’s request.

On Tuesday, U.S. Rep. David Trone, D-Md., said the administration’s “efforts to dismantle the U.S. Postal Service are an attempt to undermine a fundamental institution in our democracy. These actions are unacceptable, and the postmaster general should be removed immediately.

“The U.S. Postal Service is a constitutionally guaranteed service that Americans have relied on since our country’s very foundation. But recent actions to use the USPS as a pawn in a political game have led millions of American to suffer. Seniors are going without the medication they need to stay healthy. Workers are going without their paychecks. Voters are unable to make their voices heard in our democracy. And all of this is happening in the middle of a global health crisis and economic recession,” Trone said.

U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., sent a letter to DeJoy to demand answers on the significant operational changes and delivery delays. The message, signed by all members of the Senate Democratic Caucus, calls on DeJoy to testify before Congress.

“In the weeks since you began to implement these changes, we have seen a steep increase in constituent concerns about mail delays, including restricted mail movement, limitations on carriers’ abilities to timely deliver mail and, most concerning, risks to receipt of critical mail involving life-saving medication and ballots for the upcoming general election,” the senators wrote. “The Postal Service is a public institution that both serves and belongs to every person in our nation. As a result, we call on you to testify before Congress about all changes you have made and plan to make as Postmaster General. The lack of transparency so far regarding the intent, scope and responsibility for changes at the Postal Service is unacceptable.”

The letter requests specific data from the postmaster general, including how the changes made to operations have affected on-time mail delivery, any formal performance analysis made before making the service changes, why unions and “mailing industry stakeholders” were not consulted, any discussions about the changes with administration officials outside the Postal Service, why the previous operating structure was deemed inadequate, any further plans for reductions or closures, and steps to be taken to halt changes adversely affecting delivery during the pandemic and upcoming election.