Every day in Minnesota and across our nation, people rely on the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) for their medication, paychecks, Social Security checks, and tax returns. Letter carriers and postal workers are a fundamental part of our country’s infrastructure and provide a vital service for the American people. And, as people are depending on the Postal Service during this pandemic, we need to make sure this critical agency can continue to carry out its mission and serve the people of our state.
But I’m deeply concerned that recent actions taken at the Postal Service — including the removal of mailboxes and sorting machines — are hurting Americans across the country, especially those in rural areas. These changes have been made as the volume of packages delivered by USPS has risen by as much as 80% some weeks during the pandemic compared to the same time last year. This higher volume of packages has resulted in increased demands on postal workers who have been on the front-lines during this pandemic as more Americans are relying on them to deliver the items that they need.
I’ve heard from a veteran whose medication recently started showing up late. And a small business owner who is hurting from delays in the supplies she needs to keep her business up and running. In early August, some Minnesotans did not receive mail for over a week, which caused some to have to wait days for lifesaving medications and others not to receive their mail-in ballots in time for our state’s primary election.
That’s why this is also about our democracy. During this pandemic, more Americans than ever have made the choice to vote by mail, and Minnesota’s primary election saw a record number of mail-in ballots cast. The changes that we’re seeing at USPS — like cutting overtime and reducing the number of mailboxes and sorting machines — could further delay the delivery of election mail for November. That’s unacceptable.
In addition to Minnesotans who never got their ballots delivered, I am hearing from others who don’t want their 90-year-old parents to have to stand in line at their local polling place to exercise their right to vote. We need to make it easier for people to vote, especially during this public health crisis. And that means ensuring that people can vote safely from their homes with the help of the Postal Service.
After I first heard these reports of mail processing and delivery delays, I joined my colleagues in leading a Senate investigation into what is going on at USPS. And since then, the postmaster general has committed to pausing any changes to mail delivery until after the election — although he has still not committed to reversing changes that have already been made, including the removal of mailboxes and sorting machines used to process mail-in ballots.
So we need to do more. The House of Representatives has passed legislation with bipartisan support — which included the votes of 26 Republican members of Congress – to provide much-needed funding to keep the Postal Service working, and the Senate should take up this bill without delay. We also need to pass my bill—the Natural Disaster and Emergency Ballot Act—that will provide the resources that states need to administer the upcoming election during this pandemic.
And finally, we need to make sure we have our postal workers’ backs so that they can meet the demands of mail delivery during this pandemic. During the pandemic, more than 40,000 postal workers have had to quarantine, 6,000 have tested positive for COVID-19, and 83 have tragically died. So we need to make sure these frontline workers are getting the support and resources they need to do their jobs safely.
With under 65 days until the election, we need a fully functioning Postal Service to ensure the integrity of our election — and make sure mail is delivered on time for the American people.