The Wash

Here’s what’s going on with the infamous mail delays and delivery issues in DC

United States Postal Service officials hire nearly 100 mail carrier assistants in DC but residents say they are still feeling discouraged with progress

With mailed paychecks disappearing and piles of personal mail delivered to the wrong addresses, D.C. residents and local politicians continue to feel frustrated with USPS.

Ward 5E Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Denise Wright said she has tried contacting USPS officials, including the Postmaster General’s office, and she has not received a response.

“It’s just been an ongoing issue, and nobody seems to have any answers,” Wright said.

Over the past year alone, there have been shuffles in leadership. Executive D.C. Postmaster Sherry Harper has been away from Washington on assignment for the past five months. Interim postmaster Eddie Masangcay served in her absence.

In an ANC meeting last month after she returned, Harper stated that USPS has been experiencing staffing shortages due to COVID-19.  She said her office is working diligently to fill vacant positions and is actively hiring and recruiting.

According to the 6E ANC meeting online recap, the U.S. Postmaster General wanted to hire nationally 40,000 employees for the fall and Jan. 2022. Since the last local update in April, D.C. Harper said USPS had hired 87 carrier assistants in D.C.

Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton addressed a formal letter to Harper at the beginning of  Sept. asking for an update on the measures USPS is taking to combat the mail delivery issues in D.C. Norton received a response about a week later stating they are continuing their efforts to increase staff support. 

Norton said in an interview that she continues to receive complaints about mail delivery in D.C.

She said she contacted Postmaster Harper to get another progress update on Oct. 12 and has yet to receive a response. All responses from the postmaster will be posted on Norton’s  press release page.

Local Le Droit Park post office has only a handful of people working right now, local residents said. (Elise Kline/ The Wash)

The United States Postal Service was established in 1775 and is one of the nation’s oldest governing institutions. According to the U.S. Government Accountability Office, USPS operates with very little financial benefits as a federal agency. However, the USPS 2021 second quarter report showed that overall revenue has increased since last year’s second quarter.

Source: U.S. Postal Service reports for second quarter fiscal 2020 and 2021 results.

Kimberly Frum, Senior Public Relations at USPS Corporate Communications, stated in an email that the communications office is currently not giving interviews. Frum did not provide further explanation.

When asked to supply a comment, Freda Sauter, Corporate Communications field contact for D.C., sent a statement regarding USPS’s plans for peak holiday season 2021, including its Delivery for America Plan. Delivery for America is USPS’s plan to achieve financial stability and service excellence, which includes allocating $40 billion in capital expenditures over the next ten years.

Commissioner Wright said she feels that USPS officials seem to be disinterested in helping resolve these issues pertaining to the “little people,” like senior citizens who are not getting their medication, which may not seem like a big deal to USPS officials. Wright said it is a big deal.

While local D.C. residents did mention issues with holiday mail, the primary problems they experienced included year-round occurrences like not receiving checks and other critical business information.

Janice Melvin, a LeDroit Park resident, said she is tired and frustrated with USPS. 

Melvin said postal employees were consistently delivering her mail to the wrong address and her neighbor was holding it “hostage.” Melvin said she is consistently not receiving checks, along with other important mail. 

She said she did not receive any mail for an entire month. 

“I was just over it. Half the time, I didn’t know when I was getting mail,” Melvin said. 

She said she complained to her local post office, where they gave her “attitude” without helping her resolve the issue. 

“I was like, ‘Come on now. This is my mail we’re talking about,’” Melvin said. 

Melvin also said she recently sent a letter via next-day priority mail, and USPS lost the letter. She complained to the post office, and she said they refused to refund her. She said the management team acted as if they didn’t know anything about it. (Elise Kline/ The Wash)

Ron Ericson, Ward 5 resident who works near the Shaw district in D.C.,  also said his mail is frequently not  delivered to the correct address.

He said his mail continues to be delivered to a neighboring business. Luckily, he said, his neighbors have been kind enough to deliver the mail back to him.

Ericson said he has contacted USPS recently about this and is still waiting on a response.

Wright said residents need to be able to rely on USPS, and right now, that’s not how residents are feeling.

“It’s a really big problem because people get their medication, people get checks, people get all kinds of information,” Wright said. “You can’t order a check through Amazon.”

NoMa resident Kimberly Morrall said USPS lost her debit card in the mail earlier this year, which had a total of $5,000 on it. She also said the debit card hosted her unemployment check.

Morrall said her debit card was never delivered to her address. She suspects someone intercepted her mail, because her building’s locked mailbox makes the chance of mail theft low. She said her card was hacked and all of her money spent.

Morrall called USPS customer service, filed a lost mail complaint and filed a claim with the inspector general from USPS. She said they never responded or followed up with her.

Morrall did eventually get reimbursed from her local bank, but it was a very long and aggravating process, she said.

USPS mailbox located in Ward 5 (Elise Kline/The Wash)

Christina Pickeral, Ward 5 resident, said although she is frustrated that her New Year’s cards were never delivered last year, she does not think it is an employee problem but rather a corporate organizational problem.

Pickeral said she loves to send holiday cards to friends and family, and cards are a great way to connect with others, especially through the stress of COVID-19.

She said her Valentine’s Day cards this past year were still late, but they did arrive at their destination.

“I think my Valentine’s Day cards got a little bit better,” Pickeral said. “I’m hoping my Halloween cards will be just the same.”

Wright said residents all have different ways to utilize their local post office, and their concerned voices need to be heard.

“Everybody is different, and people have different needs, and a lot of people depend or have ways in which they conduct their lives. And that needs to be respected. Period,” Wright said.

Elise Kline

Elise Kline

I’m an investigative journalist covering public health, racial injustice and gender inequality. I am a graduate student at American University, currently working as a graduate assistant for Dr. Sherri Williams.

I have written articles for Her Campus, Ash & Rose and Live With Plum, focusing on social issues such as gender inequality and poverty. In 2020, I covered young feminist heroes making strides against period poverty and sexual assault awareness.

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