A U.S. Postal Service carrier delivers mail along Dubuque Road in Snohomish in January, 2022. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald file photo)

A U.S. Postal Service carrier delivers mail along Dubuque Road in Snohomish in January, 2022. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald file photo)

Editorial: USPS needs to deliver on mail’s timely arrival

Region’s members of Congress ask for reports on delayed delivery of mail, medications and newspapers.

By The Herald Editorial Board

The circulation department of The Daily Herald expected to hear some push-back when the paper switched at the start of the year from carrier delivery to U.S. Postal Service delivery; essentially changing the newspaper’s arrival from mornings to afternoons.

What The Herald didn’t expect was that it would be paying for same-day delivery that instead can lag one or more days late for some subscribers. And you don’t have to look beyond the letters to the editor section on this page for further proof; rather than arriving on its publication date that afternoon, some readers are calling and writing that papers are arriving even two to three days late.

“We are not getting the product we expect from either the newspaper or the post office,” one reader wrote recently.

It’s not a problem unique to Snohomish County; there have been similar reports of delayed mail deliveries in Skagit and Whatcom counties in the past year, drawing the attention of the region’s two members of Congress, Reps. Suzan DelBene and Rick Larsen, representing the state’s 1st and 2nd Congressional Districts, respectively.

Offices for both have been taking calls regularly about delayed service and have twice written letters to the U.S. Postal Service and Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, first in July and again in January, seeking information on the causes of the delays and the actions being taken.

“While brief delays due to weather and the busy holiday period are understandable, many constituents reported no mail delivery for over a week. Concerningly, we also heard reports that USPS employees in these areas were asked to prioritize package delivery over other types of mail, even though our constituents reported missed paychecks, medication, court notices, and other important items,” the pair wrote.

The responses, not directly from DeJoy’s office but from postal service representatives in Washington, D.C., assure that mail is being delivered and point to the agency’s “personnel shortages” and difficulties in hiring in Washington state and elsewhere in the country, noting that the screening process for postal service workers is strict because of the nature of the job, requiring a background check, physical exams and tests for writing and driving.

Yet, both members of Congress say their offices continue to hear complaints about delivery delays and are frustrated with the service’s advice that those with complaints be directed to the postal service’s complaint website. Those registering those complaints, Larsen said during a recent interview, are supposed to receive a response in 24 hours, but even that isn’t happening consistently.

Both want to know if deliveries are continuing to lag.

“They have said in some of our conversations they are able to deliver on time, so we want to know,” if that’s not happening, DelBene said. When the service says it’s addressed an issue, she said, “we want to go back and say actually we’ve heard that this hasn’t been addressed.”

This is not a new issue in Snohomish County, and was feared as an outcome as far back as 2013 when the USPS reduced the level of service at its Hardeson Road facility in Everett, removing mail processing equipment and reducing staff, keeping the facility as a sorting center only.

Criticism also has been leveled at the postmaster; DeJoy, appointed during the Trump administration, was criticized for ramping up the removal of processing equipment, reduced overtime and removal of postal collection boxes in the months prior to the 2020 election. Facing legal challenges from attorneys general in Washington and several other states, DeJoy suspended his plans for further employee and facility cuts, but only until after the 2020 election.

Complaints about those cuts have found some success recently, DelBene said. Last March, the USPS scrapped an earlier plan to close a processing center in Redmond that serves Snohomish and King county communities south of Everett, and would have consolidated that facility in Tukwila, more than 20 miles and a half-hour’s travel away.

Nor has Congress ignored the postal service’s long-standing financial problems. It passed a $50 billion relief and reform package a year ago, including an important policy change that dropped a requirement that the USPS pre-fund its retiree health care benefits out 75 years, a requirement that was unique to the postal service.

The Daily Herald Co. has also offered assistance, said Publisher Rudi Alcott. For a $1 contract — government agencies can’t accept gifts — The Herald has offered a marketing and advertising package worth more than $100,000 for the purpose of attracting job applicants for open positions with the post office locally.

Even with email, text-messaging and electronic payments, and the growth of online shopping and deliveries by companies other than the post office, the U.S. Postal Service remains a vital and self-supporting service. Along with the delivery of birthday cards and holiday gift packages, Americans continue to rely on timely deliveries of bills, checks, correspondence, prescription medication and now their daily news.

“The Postal Service has service in their name,” Larsen said. “And it needs to provide a service that is more than just guaranteeing they’re going to deliver something; it has to be delivered when people have expected it,” Larsen said. “And that’s not happening.”

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