Through snow, rain, heat, and night – and now an unprecedented pandemic – postal workers in the Granite State and across the United States do everything that they can to deliver mail safely and on time.
Now, in addition to the many challenges that dedicated postal workers already face, they are coping with changes from the Trump administration and Postmaster General Louis DeJoy that are causing chaos, confusion, and delays.
Granite Staters are seeing the impact directly. For so many service members, veterans, people who experience disabilities, and rural Americans, the Postal Service is a lifeline. For them and others, slowdowns in delivery have real consequences.
In Manchester, for example, I’ve heard from one couple who receives prescription medication through VA benefits and has been waiting for prescriptions for weeks due to postal delays. The noticeable slowdown in mail delivery has forced them to ration critical medication – including medication necessary to treat diabetes and heart disease.
Americans have relied on the Postal Service for more than 200 years. And during this pandemic, timely, reliable service is as important as ever. Unfortunately, recent changes implemented by a new Postmaster General have exacerbated delivery challenges already caused by COVID-19.
At a recent Senate hearing, I had the opportunity to question Postmaster General DeJoy about these changes and the specific concerns that I am hearing from Granite Staters.
The Postmaster General told me that that he would make sure that any future changes to the Postal Service do not delay the delivery of life-saving medications. However, he did not provide details to back up these assurances.
In addition, when I asked Mr. DeJoy about the impact his actions were having on the public’s confidence in voting by mail, he had no plan to ensure that election mail would be prioritized, despite making a commitment to do so. At a time when it is likely that more than half of voters will vote by mail, the Postmaster General’s failure to have a plan to back up his words is unacceptable.
Finally, I was especially concerned by the Postmaster General’s lack of knowledge about decommissioned mail sorting machines and the impact of these machines being taken offline. I recently visited a Manchester postal facility where one sorting machine was sold for scrap, and the only other one of this type at the facility recently broke down. While that machine was fixed, it could cause significant delays if it happens again. Yet the Postmaster General said that there’s no need to restore or replace the machines that have been removed.
Congress – and the American people – need to hear concrete plans from the Postal Service to ensure that all Americans receive their mail on time. Instead, at our hearing, Postmaster General DeJoy provided vague assurances and a failure to recognize the harmful impact of the changes that he’s made.
For months, Senate Democrats have been calling for Senator McConnell to work with us on additional, bipartisan COVID-19 relief legislation, including funding for the Postal Service. The House of Representatives recently passed legislation that would prevent the Postal Service from implementing any changes to the operations or levels of service it had in place on January 1, 2020 until the COVID-19 pandemic has ended. It also provides $25 billion in emergency funding. Senator McConnell should call the Senate back into session without delay and allow a vote on this important legislation.
The Postal Service is the only agency enshrined in the Constitution, and provides essential services to Americans, especially in rural communities. The attempts to undermine this vital service are extremely harmful and must end now.
I am grateful for all Postal Service workers on the front lines of this pandemic who risk their health and safety so that the American people have access to necessities without having to leave their homes, and I extend my deepest sympathies to the families of postal employees who have been lost to COVID-19 while doing their best to deliver every piece of mail, every day.
I will keep doing everything I can to support postal workers’ efforts to deliver for the American people.
U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-NH, was elected to the Senate in 2016.