DETROIT, MI – U.S. Senator Gary Peters (D-MI), Ranking Member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, released an investigative update with new U.S. Postal Service data showing that on-time mail delivery continues to be inconsistent, despite some improvements made by the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) in response to pressure from Congress, the public and federal courts. Peters’ update shows that while on-time mail delivery improved following Congressional oversight efforts at the end of the summer, delivery performance has fluctuated in recent weeks, and declined overall during the month of September. Peters followed his oversight update by calling on Postmaster General Louis DeJoy to provide additional performance data and information related to concerning ongoing delivery delays.
“Congressional oversight efforts and public pressure led to an initial improvement in on-time delivery by the Postal Service following Postmaster General DeJoy’s disruptive changes. However, the Postal Service’s performance has still not returned to its previous standards for on-time delivery, and these delays will continue to affect Michiganders and folks across the country,” said Senator Peters. “When it comes to prescription drugs, business mail or absentee ballots, even a one day delay can have a serious effect. That’s why I’m continuing to demand answers from the Postmaster General and pushing to reverse recent changes that so severely disrupted mail service.”
While performance has improved since the Postal Service began rolling back DeJoy’s changes under pressure from Congress and compelled by court orders, on-time delivery has been inconsistent. Congressional oversight – including an August 21 Senate oversight hearing secured by Peters, led to steady improvement in on-time delivery of First-Class Mail during the month of August. However, delivery performance has fluctuated in recent weeks, and declined overall during the month of September. During the week of September 26 – October 2, the nationwide on-time delivery rate was 86.0% – more than 5 percentage points below the levels prior to DeJoy’s changes. USPS has recently made commitments to improve delivery, which Peters has called for since July, including directing its managers to allow necessary late and extra trips, allow all needed overtime, reconnect machines needed for peak mail volumes, and ensure all election mail is treated as First-Class as millions of voters are expected to vote-by-mail.
In Michigan, on-time delivery for First-Class mail also fell in September. In the Detroit District, on-time delivery rates have declined for three consecutive weeks – to 72.2% during the week of September 26 – October 2. Service improved slightly this week in the Greater Michigan District, rising to 86.6%. Despite these fluctuations, on-time delivery levels in Michigan have improved significantly since Peters launched his oversight efforts of USPS.
Following the disclosure of these concerning performance numbers, Peters wrote to Postmaster General DeJoy pressing for answers on how he intends to respond to recent court orders and public pressure to reverse his changes and restore on-time mail service, as well as quickly process all election mail.
“With the upcoming general election less than thirty days away, I now write again to request information about steps you are taking, including in response to court orders and demands from Congress, to restore on-time mail delivery and expeditiously process absentee ballots and other election mail,” wrote Peters. “I will continue my oversight of Postal Service operations to ensure the Postal Service follows through on its commitments to restore service and successfully deliver all mail, including election mail. Accordingly, I ask that you immediately explain the basis for recent delays and your plan to eliminate them, including by complying with court orders to halt Postal Service practices that previously caused delays.”
As Ranking Member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Peters has fought to protect the Postal Service and its 245-year tradition of reliable, timely delivery. Peters recently released a report detailing the results of his investigation into how operational changes at the Postal Service ordered by Postmaster General Louis DeJoy resulted in compromised service for Americans. He has also introduced the Delivering for America Act , which would block DeJoy from making any more changes during the pandemic, require DeJoy to reverse changes which have caused mail delays, and provide $25 billion in funding to USPS.
Text of Peters’ letter is copied below and available here.
October 9, 2020
Mr. Louis DeJoy
Postmaster General and Chief Executive Officer
United States Postal Service
475 L’Enfant Plaza, S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20260
Dear Mr. DeJoy:
After multiple congressional requests for information, your testimony before Congress, several federal court rulings prohibiting certain United States Postal Service (USPS) actions, and multiple reports, including investigative reports I released in August and September, no doubt remains that your July 2020 directives to change mail delivery practices in the midst of a pandemic directly resulted in mail delays that harmed Americans. Under pressure from Congress, the public, and the courts, the Postal Service has walked back harmful changes that caused mail delays, and has made commitments to improve election mail delivery. However, I am troubled to learn of recent and continued mail delays across the nation. With the upcoming general election less than thirty days away, I now write again to request information about steps you are taking, including in response to court orders and demands from Congress, to restore on-time mail delivery and expeditiously process absentee ballots and other election mail.
Since July 2020, I have repeatedly called on you to remedy the significant and widespread mail delays resulting from your directives. On-time delivery rates fell sharply starting in mid-July immediately following changes in mail delivery under your leadership, resulting in harm to seniors, small business owners, and others who rely on timely mail delivery. On August 18, 2020, after weeks of sustained pressure from Congress and other stakeholders, and directly after you agreed to my request to appear at a hearing before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, you announced that some of the actions causing concern would be paused until after the November election. However, you still refused to provide complete information about the operational changes made, halted, and still in progress.
In recent weeks and in multiple ongoing lawsuits, federal judges in Washington State, New York, Pennsylvania, and the District of Columbia have issued preliminary injunctions barring the Postal Service from actions that could hinder on-time delivery. Recognizing that unprecedented numbers of Americans are expected to vote by mail this year, courts have also ordered the Postal Service to take affirmative steps to ensure election mail is delivered on time.
The Postal Service appears to be complying with recent court orders and has taken additional steps to prioritize the timely processing and delivery of election mail. USPS has issued employee and management instructions to treat all election mail as First-Class mail and advance it to the front of the line in mail processing; has worked to expand capacity for election mail processing, including explicit instructions to run machines longer, reconnect machines needed to handle the volume, and authorize overtime; and has partnered with its unions to set up internal oversight mechanisms, intended to quickly identify and rectify any problems with processing election mail.
However, despite these actions, during the week of September 19–25, only 84.2% of First-Class Mail nationwide was delivered on time, the second week in a row that on-time delivery declined after improving during late-August and early-September. While nationwide performance improved to 86.0% the week of September 26–October 2, it continued to decline in some Districts, including the Detroit District with only 72.2% on-time First-Class Mail. You have previously acknowledged that the new initiatives you ordered in July resulted in unanticipated delays. Unfortunately, USPS assertions that service performance would rapidly return to early-July levels do not appear to be accurate. In fact, on-time delivery of First-Class Mail remains below previous levels in 59 of the 67 Postal Districts across the United States. I urge you to work diligently to eliminate these delays and return service performance immediately to its target levels. USPS should use any resources necessary to achieve this goal.
I will continue my oversight of Postal Service operations to ensure the Postal Service follows through on its commitments to restore service and successfully deliver all mail, including election mail. Accordingly, I ask that you immediately explain the basis for recent delays and your plan to eliminate them, including by complying with court orders to halt Postal Service practices that previously caused delays.
Please provide the following information no later than October 16, 2020, and on a weekly basis where applicable.
Overall Service Performance
1. Please provide an explanation for fluctuations in service performance, to accompany weekly data, including specific explanations for disproportionately impacted Areas, Districts, and facilities. What specific steps have you taken to improve on-time delivery rates?
2. In addition to the weekly service performance data currently provided to Congress, please provide the following metrics on a weekly basis:
a. The number of extra and late trips authorized;
b. hours of overtime authorized;
c. number of temporary employees hired to help handle the mail volume;
d. the number of machines reconnected; and
e. a summary of any other significant steps taken to improve overall service performance and respond to challenges.
I also ask that USPS publicly post the weekly service performance data it is currently providing to Congress and the Courts. USPS currently posts weekly press releases summarizing this data, but the public should have access to full information about mail trends so they can plan accordingly – particularly if they intend to use the mail to return a completed ballot.
Election Mail Compliance
1. Pursuant to the Court’s September 25, 2020 order in Jones v. USPS, the Postal Service is required to submit weekly summaries of “any and all data and information collected by USPS Headquarters regarding USPS’s handling of Election Mail at the Headquarters level and compliance with USPS policies regarding Election Mail.” Please provide us with the same weekly reports. Please include election mail service performance data, which is an important indicator although it represents only a small portion of all election mail.
2. An October 2, 2020 court filing stated that “USPS is currently collecting additional data as part of ongoing attempts to develop new techniques and metrics related to Election Mail, including its ballot cancelation performance, and other useful metrics.” Please provide us with a weekly update on any and all techniques and metrics under development related to Election Mail.
Thank you for your attention to this matter. I look forward to your response.