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For the past month, Toledo, Ohio, resident Tom Mlynarczyk, 83, hasn’t known when or if his mail is coming day-to-day.
“When I moved out here in ’65, I could set my watch by the mailman,” he said.
Lately, though, he said it has been days between deliveries. He doesn’t use the internet, so he relies on the mail for utility bills, personal letters, cards, advertisements, notices and voting.
“I usually vote absentee,” he said. “This year, I’m afraid to do it. ... I’m afraid if I vote absentee, my vote will never get there.”
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Mlynarczyk’s frustration comes as households across the United States face similar delays and deficiencies with their mail service. Earlier this month, local letter carriers were told to delay delivering mail in order to save money for the United States Postal Service, a direction that apparently came from top federal officials to mail carriers throughout the country.
Then on July 27, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy released a statement emphasizing the severity of the USPS financial crisis, and imploring both Congress and the Postal Regulatory Commission to enact legislation and regulatory reforms to address the issue.
“The Postal Service is in a financially unsustainable position, stemming from substantial declines in mail volume and a broken business model,” he said. “We are currently unable to balance our costs with available funding sources to fulfill both our universal service mission and other legal obligations.”
When contacted by The Blade for comment July 27, a USPS spokesman referred to DeJoy’s statement from the same day.
In mid-July, DeJoy put out a memo instructing employees to leave mail behind at distribution centers and deliver it the next day if it would delay their routes, according to internal USPS documents obtained by the Washington Post and verified by the American Postal Workers Union and people with knowledge of their contents.
Postal union workers have voiced opposition to the delays, including Mike Hayden, president of the National Association of Letter Carriers Branch 100, which is based in Ohio.
The union recently posted to its Facebook page a memo detailing a new test protocol intended to improve mail delivery, which includes postal workers sorting undelivered mail in the afternoon rather than the morning in order to allow carriers to start their routes earlier. Hayden said that test hasn’t yet been scheduled to take place in northwest Ohio.
The problems currently plaguing the mail system, Hayden said, amount to this: Incoming mail is not getting delivered and outgoing mail is not being collected — if mail carriers don’t go by someone’s home, they wouldn’t see that there’s outgoing mail to be picked up.
“I can 100 percent guarantee that mail is not being delivered, sometimes for days at a time,” Hayden said.
Mail carriers are delivering packages before letters, he said, so parcels from companies like Amazon are taking priority over other types of postage. But even those items are being delayed.
Mlynarczyk said he doesn’t have an answer for the delays at the USPS, but he’s concerned about the mail not getting where it needs to go on time. His niece, who lives a few streets away from him, hadn’t received mail for a weeklong stretch while waiting for prescription medication, he said.
“She got mail today for the first time since [July 17],” he said July 27.
The mail carrier used to come every day, he said. Then it was every other day, then every third day, and the gaps are getting wider.
Before July 27, the last time he had received any mail delivered was July 23, a three-day gap. When he spoke to The Blade July 27, a mail carrier hadn’t yet been down his street.
He wondered if the mail would even come.
“We never know,” he said.
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