WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senators Chris Van Hollen and Ben Cardin and Congressmen Steny H. Hoyer, Dutch Ruppersberger, John Sarbanes, Kweisi Mfume, Anthony G. Brown, Jamie Raskin, Andy Harris, M.D., and David Trone (all Md.) announced that they received a letter from the United States Postal Service (USPS) in response to their November 22 request for an update on its readiness for the holiday mail surge.
In response to the letter, the lawmakers released the following statement:
“We are encouraged that the USPS is taking clear steps to improve mail service for the people we represent following our repeated calls for action. With many Marylanders relying heavily on USPS amid the holiday season and pandemic, we hope increased staffing and the activation of additional mail facilities lead to a notable improvement after the poor service many have experienced over the past year. That said, the Postal Service still has more work ahead to implement recommendations from the Inspector General and to ensure the timely delivery of Marylanders’ mail. On behalf of our constituents, we will continue pressing for progress until these issues are fixed.”
The USPS’s response outlines some improvements made for the holiday season, including the hiring of more than 2,000 staff in Maryland, activation of additional sorting and delivery annexes in the state, and opening of a new carrier training academy. USPS set metrics for employee availability and delivery failures to evaluate performance in the Baltimore area but has not established thresholds for these metrics to determine when the Baltimore postmaster should request additional support from outside the area. The USPS Inspector General recommended that the USPS establish these metrics and thresholds in its November audit of Baltimore mail facilities, and USPS agreed to carry out that recommendation by November 30, 2021.
The full USPS letter to the Maryland Congressional Delegation is here. Highlights from the letter include:
- The USPS has done significant additional hiring relative to last year, adding 22,000 more processing plant employees compared to November 2020. The agency has also converted 33,000 pre-career employees to career status, which generally improves retention. In Maryland, USPS hired 2,245 employees since August 28. The agency’s goal is to hire 40,000 seasonal workers for the holiday season.
- USPS has added more than 4 million square feet of processing space and procured 112 more package sorters. In Maryland, this includes Package Sorting Annexes in Baltimore and Forestville and six additional delivery annexes.
- USPS has opened a new city carrier training academy for the Baltimore region, as recommended by the Inspector General, at Nottingham Station.
- To determine when a district needs additional resources, USPS tracks employee availability, non-delivery rates, and last-mile delivery failures. The District Manager holds daily teleconferences to evaluate performance on these metrics and determine if additional help is needed.
- The Maryland District Manager has yet to set thresholds for key metrics to determine when outside resources are needed to accommodate mail surges. USPS has said it does not evaluate performance on these metrics at the national level, “because a static standard would be inappropriate and counter-productive in a dynamic business environment.”
- USPS said it agreed with this recommendation when the report was issued.