It’s been almost a month since Christmas, and still the U.S. Postal Service is struggling to process a backlog of parcels. On its website the USPS warns that it is still experiencing “unprecedented volume increases” and thanks patrons for their patience.
While the USPS has declined to state actual parcel volume during the holiday period, the agency said it experienced “historic volumes” of mail this holiday. With many shoppers choosing to shop online amid the pandemic, the USPS found itself swamped by up to 250,000 packages daily at each of its largest processing facilities.
Efforts to clear the backlog were hampered by a rising number of COVID-19 cases and quarantined postal employees. There were fewer employees to run the machines to process the tsunami of mail and packages.
That tsunami of mail was heaped upon a USPS that had significantly scaled back operations. Between 2012 and 2015, the Postal Service shuttered more than half of its mail processing facilities in the name of creating a leaner, more fiscally sound post office.
All this translated to significant disruptions in mail delivery and Americans not receiving their packages, or mail, as expected. Twice this month, mail delivery to Kaycee has been delayed, with expected mail arriving up to a week late.
Long before COVID-19, the USPS played a vital role in our health care system, handling nearly 6% of the roughly 4 billion prescriptions written in 2016 — that’s 240 million prescriptions annually — along with millions of lab tests and essential medical supply shipments.
In the midst of this unprecedented pandemic, the USPS plays a critical role in our fight against the virus, delivering tests to labs and millions of pounds of personal protective equipment (PPE) and vital supplies to hospitals and essential businesses, along with deliveries to consumers who are remaining at home.
Nowhere is this more apparent than in rural areas like our own. Slower, unpredictable delivery times may force small businesses, the elderly and those with disabilities to turn to more costly delivery methods that, quite frankly, don’t have the post office’s ability to reach customers in the “last mile.”
In 2006, Congress passed a law that imposed extraordinary costs on the U.S. Postal Service. The Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act (PAEA) required the USPS to create a $72 billion fund to pay for the cost of its post-retirement health care costs, 75 years into the future. This burden applies to no other federal agency or private corporation.
Eliminating this burden would go a long way to fixing the USPS budget crisis.
Some have argued that the USPS should be privatized. The myth that a private company would provide better service to us is simply not the case. Were the USPS privatized, service to rural states would be curtailed, because it’s just not profitable. Presently no tax dollars fund the USPS. The agency operates solely on revenue generated from postage.
Make no mistake, our local postal service employees work hard and do a great job with the resources they have. But sending mail to from Buffalo to Denver to be delivered back to Kaycee is just plain dumb. It’s time Congress gets serious about the financial viability of the postal service and fix these inefficiencies before they kill the USPS due to neglect. Our Congressional delegation needs to spearhead this effort, as rural areas like Wyoming rely disproportionately on the reliable postal service.