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DC complains of late, missing mail; USPS cites personnel shortage during pandemic

Some D.C. residents said they're still looking for USPS packages that are marked "delivered."

WASHINGTON — Some D.C. neighbors are still searching for packages that the United States Postal Service has marked as "delivered." They said mail delays have gotten worse during the pandemic.

“This is quite frustrating," Neta Vaught said. "We are depending on the mail, but we’re not getting anything.”

Vaught lives in Washington, D.C.'s Ward 8. She said she has multiple mail problems in the last month.

“I was looking for mail, and I realized I hadn’t had any mail in about two days," she said. "I have a package for priority mail that said that it was delivered on the 15th…nothing arrived.”

She said she checked with the Congress Heights Station supervisor pretty much every day since, and Tuesday, Vaught said the supervisor told her a mail carrier should be delivering it that day.

Vaught said she checked when she got home, and there was no package for her.

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Others posted on Facebook and Twitter about similar issues, like Virginia Spatz. Spatz lives in Ward 6.

"We are getting notices that packages were delivered to our house," Spatz said. "And then it shows up the next day or the second day you know no explanation as though nothing happened. It’s happened to me. It’s happened to my housemate. It’s happened to his mother.”

A few weeks ago, some Ward 8 constituents wrote to Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton about the mail problems, specifically at the Congress Heights station.

The Congresswoman, in turn, wrote to USPS, asking about the cause of the issues.

The US Postal Service wrote back, citing multiple issues that stemmed from a personnel shortage during the pandemic combined with an increase in parcel volume.

“They indicated that even managers were carrying mail there, because of the number of packages," Congresswoman Norton said.

Since the letter exchange, Congresswoman Norton said she has worked to take other action to help the postal service and its customers.

"I think we’re all grateful for the postal service, so much so that in the HEROES Act that was just introduced last Tuesday, we’ve asked for a $13 an hour increase in pay during the pandemic," she said.

It's important to note, the HEROES Act is part of a $3 trillion bill that is facing significant opposition. 

RELATED: Postal Service touts hiring spree while agency faces financial turmoil, 20 employee deaths

Credit: Haleigh Purvis
DC neighbors have complained of late and missing mail during the pandemic.


After WUSA 9 told Congresswoman Norton about Spatz's experience, she said she hadn't heard of issues in Ward 6 yet, so she would reach out to USPS there.

In the meantime, neighbors are still waiting -- and worrying.

“Because you get afraid, because you don’t know if someone has stolen it," Vaught said. "This has to end. We got to figure out what’s going on with people’s packages.”

USPS sent the following statement to WUSA 9 Tuesday:

“Thank you for bringing this to our attention and we will look into this matter immediately. Customers with questions about mail deliveries are encouraged to contact a postal representative by calling 1-800-ASK-USPS, online at www.usps.com, or through Twitter @USPSHelp.”

In the letter the postal service had written to Congresswoman Norton, they said that they are working to hire more people, but social distancing protocols have made the process a bit difficult.

RELATED: After 2 employees test positive for coronavirus, Maryland postal workers urge more protection

Here's the full letter:

Dear Congresswoman Norton:

This responds to your May 1 letter to Postmaster General Megan J. Brennan regarding mail delivery service in Congress Heights.

We understand your concerns about the timely delivery of mail and parcels during the COVID-19 pandemic. The vital services we provide to the American people are only possible due to the collective and individual efforts of the dedicated public servants who work for the U.S. Postal Service. We appreciate your support and the opportunity to provide information on how the Postal Service will continue its essential function in providing prompt delivery of mail and packages.

The Postal Service is working diligently to meet the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, and the safety and well-being of our employees and customers is our highest priority.

We have established a dedicated COVID-19 Command Response leadership team to direct employee, operational, business, and customer continuity efforts during this time of national emergency. We are following the guidance of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other public health authorities and adapting our processes as necessary to ensure the safe and efficient delivery of mail.

In regard to your specific question about the Congress Heights Station, that facility is experiencing a personnel shortage coupled with an increase in parcel volume. In response, the workload is being redistributed daily among the available carriers, and even managers and supervisors are being utilized as carriers and retail clerks until staffing levels improve. We are working to hire additional carriers but this process is complicated by the need to follow social distancing protocols, in accordance with CDC guidance, when administering training and new employee orientations. Please know that we working to manage this complex problem in a way that provides the best possible service while protecting our employees, our customers, and the community as a whole.

In addition, we regret that your constituents have been unable to speak by phone with Congress Heights Station staff. Management will ensure that all customer inquiries and phone calls are responded to in a timely manner. They can be reached at (202) 523-2122. Should your constituents believe that their concerns are not being sufficiently addressed locally, they may contact the Capital District Consumer and Industry Contact office at (202) 636-1200. District officials have administrative responsibility over postal operations in the area and ensure that local Post Offices are meeting national standards.

We regret any inconvenience or frustration your constituents may be experiencing during this time, and we appreciate their patience as we work to restore consistent service. Moreover, we understand the extent to which the American public depends upon us for high-quality, reliable service.

Thank you for writing. If I can be of assistance in other postal matters, please let me know.

 Sincerely,

 James Cari

Government Relations Representative

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