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Missing Mail: Postal issues during COVID-19

Over the past two weeks, the RoundTable has heard from several concerned Evanston residents about mail delivery delays of days or weeks.

Colleen, a retired tech executive who recently returned to Evanston with her husband and asked that her last name not be released, said her apartment didn’t receive deliveries between January 6 and 12.

She had been waiting for the mail because she uses the postal service’s Informed Delivery service, which allows consumers to see digital images of envelopes en route to their address along with the tracking numbers of the packages on their way. Colleen said she called the post office to inquire and was told there were 40 routes in Evanston and 15 postmen were in the area.

“I get it, but it could be an unsolvable dilemma,” she said. “I feel especially bad for people waiting for medication to be delivered or who don’t receive Social Security payments electronically.”

In a prepared statement, a regional US Postal Service spokesman acknowledged there had been problems.

“Local management is aware of the delivery issues in Evanston and is taking steps to address the concerns,” said Timothy Norman, part of the USPS communications office that serves Chicago and District Illinois 1, of which Evanston is a part. “This office has returned to full mail delivery this week. We appreciate the patience of our customers and the efforts of our employees in challenging times.”

Norman said the postal service is “not immune to the human impact of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic”.

The spokesman said postal customers with delivery problems should contact their local post office. “The Postal Service will continue to diligently investigate customer concerns and address deficiencies,” he said.

There are several ways Residents can notify the Postal Service of service issues:

  • Customers can go to the USPS website usps.com and click Contact Us at the bottom of the home page.
  • The Postal Service’s official Twitter account, maintained by the social media staff at USPS headquarters, can provide assistance. For customer service, tweet @USPSHelp.
  • Visit the Evanston Post Office at 1101 Davis St. or call 847-328-6288.

At least 100 postman positions are vacant in Illinois, according to the careers section of the USPS website. As Norman mentioned, illness is a factor. The remaining staff have more work to do with fewer staff, increasing wait times. Training new employees takes time and new carriers take longer to complete deliveries until they know their routes. Winter weather hazards from ice and snow also contribute to service delays.

In the past, truckers have been asked to reduce overtime to save costs; One way to do this is to start the workday later. When asked about the current overtime policy, Norman said, “The use of overtime is based on operational needs. We match the available resources to the workload.”

The USPS Office of the Inspector General prepares reports and audits “to protect assets and revenue, ensure efficient and economical mail delivery, and ensure the integrity of the postal system,” according to its website.

The Office of the Inspector General has an online list of “helpful hotline links” for a variety of consumer postal matters.

It also publishes a country-wide performance map dashboard that reports quarterly service ratings. On January 14, the map showed that Chicago was one of 11 districts with substandard delivery times.

The standard delivery time for first class mail is two days and the target percentage for Chicago was 87.8%. The actual delivery time in the fourth quarter of 2021 was 85.3%.

Just as this article went live, Colleen called back to report that all the mail she and her husband were expecting from January 6th to 12th had just been delivered that day, January 14th.

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