Lawmakers, Stakeholders Push New Strategies to Reverse Mail Slowdowns and Price Hikes
A group of House Democrats is seeking to increase pressure on U.S. Postal Service leadership to force a pause on changes that have slowed mail delivery while increasing prices, calling for a probe into the strategy.
The lawmakers, led by Rep. Kweisi Mfume, D-Md., introduced a resolution (H.Con.Res. 54) voicing objections to reforms implemented by Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, saying they would disproportionately impact vulnerable communities and damage the mailing agency. The measure would call on DeJoy to delay rate hikes and mail slowdowns until he completes a “full substantiation” of his plan and Congress carries out “further investigation.”
USPS slowed delivery for about 40% of First-Class mail on Oct. 1 as part of DeJoy’s plan to cut costs, create more stable mail delivery and reduce dependence on air transportation. The postmaster general has said USPS can no longer meet its previous windows, pushing the maximum days for mail delivery sent in the continental United States from three days to five. DeJoy has received widespread criticism for the changes, with lawmakers, advocacy groups, its regulator and even its own board members warning they would accelerate ongoing declines in mail volumes and lead to further losses for the mailing agency.
In August, meanwhile, USPS raised its rates for the first time in line with new authority it received last year, increasing prices well above the standard inflationary amount. The cost of First-Class mail jumped by 6.8%, while package services increased by 8.8%. USPS also currently has in place additional holiday season surcharges. DeJoy predicted the Postal Service would generate between $35 billion and $52 billion over the next decade by raising prices. USPS is currently facing a lawsuit over its price increases.
Both the slowdowns and the price increases are part of DeJoy’s 10-year plan to allow USPS to right its financial course. The mailing agency expects to save about $170 million annually from the changes, a small fraction of its operating budget.
In their resolution, the lawmakers noted the Postal Regulatory Commission criticized the mail slowdowns but did not have the authority to prevent them from taking place. Therefore, they said, USPS should stop the changes until they receive further scrutiny. They called affordable prices a “crucial aspect” of the Postal Service’s draw and said that advantage was “currently being undercut” by DeJoy.
Despite PRC’s limitations, a coalition of 20 attorneys general submitted a complaint before the commission last week asking the regulator to review DeJoy’s 10-year plan. While PRC has already approved the price hikes and reviewed the delivery schedule changes for both First-Class mail and packages, the AGs said the commission had only looked at a “small portion of the plan’s scope.” The group called DeJoy’s proposals “unprecedented” and said a full PRC review would help restore the “statutory balance” Congress has established and allow for public comment.
House Democrats originally sought to stymie DeJoy’s efforts to implement the mail slowdowns in postal reform legislation they introduced earlier this year, but ultimately stripped that language from the measure to win bipartisan backing. The bill now has widespread support in both the House and Senate, but is still awaiting a vote in both chambers.
In the meantime, some groups are calling on President Biden to take immediate action. While the White House does not have direct control of who serves as postmaster general, it does appoint members to its board of governors. A group of 77 organizations, led by the Save the Post Office Coalition, last week called on Biden not to re-appoint current board Chairman Ron Bloom when his term expires in December. While a Democrat, Bloom has consistently defended DeJoy and his reforms.
“The Biden Administration should not reward this failed leadership with a new term,” the groups said. “Instead, please take this opportunity to correct the course of the Postal Service’s future by moving expeditiously to nominate a replacement for Mr. Bloom who will be forward-looking and more representative of the postal workforce, and will not rubber-stamp the disastrous policies of Mr. DeJoy.”