USPS delivery disruptions irk residents

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The United States Post Office located in the Colfax Plaza on Belmar Boulevard in Wall Township, and other post offices, will have reduced hours beginning Aug. 22.. (MARK R. SULLIVAN/THE COAST STAR)

Problems with mail delivery by the United States Postal Service [USPS]  have persisted for several weeks in Wall Township, Belmar and other local towns. Residents have complained of sporadic delivery, receiving packages only or receiving no mail at all for as long as four days.

Gigi Stoner, a resident of the West Belmar section of  Wall Township, said she has been receiving mail only about two days a week recently. On Tuesday morning, she received mail that was supposed to be delivered one week ago. Flyers for retail stores and supermarkets arrive almost a week late, when the sales are almost over, Ms. Stoner said.

“My friends aren’t getting their mail, either. What happens to people’s checks and bills? Not everyone has electronic deposit. When you are missing bills, you stress out and that is the last thing you need during a pandemic,” she said. “If it has correct postage, the Post Office should deliver it,” she added. 

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Ms. Stoner wondered whether the recent problems would cause people to start questioning the overall reliability of the U.S. mail.

“Is it possibly done to discourage people from using the mail for voting purposes? That’s the speculation. But it’s not going to stop me from voting by mail,” she said.

Belmar Postmaster John Mutchler III who handles the mail for Belmar, Lake Como and Wall Township, declined to comment.

The Coast Star and The Ocean Star also received numerous complaints from mail subscribers that recent editions were delivered days late by the USPS. 

Publisher Alison Manser Ertl reached out to Ray V. Daiutolo Sr., USPS Corporate Communications for South Jersey and Philadelphia, for help solving the problem. Mr. Daiutolo responded that the USPS is developing a broad business plan to ensure its financial stability, and also is taking steps to “increase operational efficiency.” 

“We consider ourselves business partners with the USPS and specifically the local postmasters in the communities we cover,” Mrs. Ertl said. “They are struggling right now to provide the proper service for first- and second-class mail, as well as parcels, and it’s due to the mandates in place regarding overtime. It is not due to their lack of effort, but something needs to change.”

U.S. Rep. Chris Smith said he also has received complaints from numerous constituents in the Fourth District who “have expressed dismay and grave concern” over the mail delivery problem.

The congressman sent a July 24 letter to U.S. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, who took command of the nation’s postal service in May, asking for a meeting to discuss the problem.

Rep. Smith said he has received telephone calls from several letter carriers “advising me that because of new instructions from their supervisors and ‘headquarters,’ they have been unable to complete their mail delivery routes and instead must prioritize parcels over regular first-class mail. This, they say, results in the carriers having to stop delivery of mail for extended periods of time.”

Rep. Smith said Le Gretta Ross-Rawlins, acting manager of the postal South Jersey District Office, informed him the mail disruption was caused by personnel shortages. The congressman said he understands that the USPS is under greater strain recently due to COVID-19 quarantining of staff, summer vacations and increased parcel volume.

But, he said in his July 24 letter, “I cannot ignore the reports I have received about a service-wide change in delivery policy, and/or overtime availability and the impact that each may be having on consumers not receiving their first class mail-checks, bills, medicines on a daily basis …The mail delivery problems in the towns in my district appear to be a much greater, systemic issue.”

“As industries across the country face supply chain interruptions, postal workers are a dependable presence in our neighborhoods and help ensure the delivery of mail, medicines, food items and payments. In times of the COVID-19 stay-at-home orders, our economy is even more reliant on the U.S. Mail,” Rep. Smith wrote.

USPS officials have noted that first-class mail volume has dropped considerably since the beginning of the pandemic shutdown, and they have warned the service will run out of money by the end of September without help from Congress.  In addition, the American Postal Workers Union has stated that more than 12,000 postal workers have fallen ill with the coronavirus.

The USPS also has announced that local post offices will reduce the hours their doors are open to the public, starting on Aug. 22. 

For example, at the post office in the Colfax Plaza at 2510 Belmar Blvd. in Wall Township, the new staffed window-service hours will be from 10 a.m to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday and closed on Saturdays. That’s reduced from the current window-service hours, which are 8:45 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 10 a.m. to noon on Saturdays.

The new  hours for customers to pick up their mail at the Colfax lobby will be from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to noon on Saturdays. The current hours are 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Saturdays.

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