Mailboxes in midtown Manhattan as Postmaster General Louis DeJoy announced today that a controversial restructuring will be postponed until after the presidential election during the fourth phase of the coronavirus reopening on August 18, 2020 in New York, New York. (Photo by Roy Rochlin/Getty Images)
(CNSNews.com) – Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, who joined the U.S. Postal Service in his leadership capacity on June 15, told the Senate Homeland Security Committee on Friday that he had nothing to do with postal collection boxes being locked up and acknowledged that they have been routinely retired from use over time during the past 10 years.
Sen. James Lankford (R-Ohio) suggested that even though problems existed at the postal service long before DeJoy joined in his leadership capacity two months ago, the postmaster general is being blamed for it as if it’s a new occurrence.
“From what I’ve heard so far today apparently the post office never had any issues. There were never any delays. There was never any mail that was late. There were never any financial problems. There was never any challenge to mail-in voting until 65 days ago when you arrived and apparently, all chaos has broken off in the post office in the last two months, but before that there seemed to be no complaint about the post office ever,” Lankford said.
The senator thanked DeJoy for stepping up to lead an organization “that desperately needs some help, that Congress has for two decades pounded on postmasters on why they are not doing reforms and why we haven’t found more efficiencies.”
“You’ve stepped into this role and have taken the– looks like the work from the inspector general and the work from the regulatory commission and have said let’s start implementing some of these things, and now Congress seems to be shifting from beating up on postmasters for not doing work to now beating up on you for actually doing the work,” Lankford said.
“So I do want to say thanks for stepping up the risk to actually take this on. I want to run through several questions. Some haven’t been addressed yet. There was a series of stories that came out and a trending on social media that you were locking up the post boxes in Burbank to prevent people from voting. Were you locking up the boxes in Burbank to keep people from voting?” he asked.
DEJOY: Senator, the stories that I have heard of my ability in the places I’m able to get to in the same day are just remarkable so no, I’m not locking up — I had nothing to do with collection boxes.
LANKFORD: You mentioned earlier it has been 35,000 of the blue boxes that have been retired over the past 10 years. So apparently any blue boxes that have been retired over the past 10 years are your responsibility over the last 65 days. You had mentioned before about some of the blue boxes being retired. Are they still going to be retired between now and the election or will they be retired in the future?
DEJOY: My commitment to the committee and leadership and the American people is we stopped. The day I put the statement out, we directed everybody to stop reducing postal hours, stop bringing back collection boxes, stop shutting down machines and that was basically what we did, from now until the election–
LANKFORD: So you stopped that ‘til the election. Will that pick up after the election, because one of the issues you brought up before some of the sorting machines are older. Some of the sorting machines are not needed anymore. Will that just stop forever? What I’m trying to figure out is are we still going to work on trying to build in efficiencies in the post office? This has been an issue for a long time to try to get us back in balance.
DEJOY: Right now the legislation is that we deliver to the 161 million addresses six days a week. I’m committed to that. I believe that’s the strength of the Postal service that we be self-sustaining. Those are the two pieces of legislation that I’m working towards. After the — we are not self-sustaining. We have a $10 billion shortfall and will continue to have.
Over the next 10 years we’ll have a $245 billion shortfall so we need to and our management team and our board need– there is a path that we are planning, okay, with the help of some legislation, with some cost impacts, with some new revenue strategies and that will help — and some pricing freedom from the PRC, we believe we have a plan to do that, but one thing that’s not in the is not doing anything after the election.
It is an ambitious plan, because we have $10 billion to bridge. Now the plan has not been finalized. We have hundreds of initiatives we look like, like take the Alaska bypass plan discussion. That’s an item on the table. That’s an unfunded mandate. It costs us like $500 million a year. And I’m not — what I asked for is all the unfunded mandates. That’s a way for us to get healthy. Pay something for the unfunded mandates.
If we just throw $25 billion at us this year and we don’t do anything, we’ll be back in two years. Then maybe we should change the legislation and not make us be self-sustaining, but as a leadership team and a board, that’s what our mission is to be self-sustaining and deliver at a high level of precision, and I’m committed to both. Both can be done with a little help from the congress and from the postal regulatory.
LANKFORD: Congress has been unwilling to be able to act on this for a very long time. It’s been over a decade Congress has discussed any kind of reforms in the post office but it always It seems to boil down to will that change distribution areas that may or may not be needed in a state that I live in or will it change any other post office structure that I’m familiar with? And if it changes my area then I want to be able to block it. So it has been a great challenge.
I’ve also heard from multiple folks saying the post office has so severely cut that they can’t meet the capacity to get ballots out. Folks in rural areas and folks in urban areas, will they be able to get ballots out? I’ve seen your letter. That was the same as the letter in 2016, saying states need to send things out early. Thanks for doing that and you shouldn’t be criticized for that.
You should be encouraged to be able to do that, but my question is folks have challenged me and said there’s not going to be enough capacity for election. Will you have enough capacity for Christmas and Mother’s day? My understanding Christmas and Mother’s Day are the biggest capacity time for first class mail? Do you have capacity now for Christmas and Mother’s Day?
DEJOY: Thank you. Yes, we have capacity for Christmas and Mother’s Day.
LANKFORD: I actually went back and looked last year, the week of December 16th of last year. The post office delivered 2 1/2 billion pieces of first class mail just that one week of December the 16th of last year. That’s a pretty remarkable feat to get 2 1/2 billion pieces of first class mail delivered in one single week. So You know right now you have the capacity to be able to handle the elections without slowing it down.
DEJOY: Yes, and It’s more than that. Besides the capacity, the intent, the extra activities that the whole organization is going through between our postal union leaders, our board, executive management team here, we are focused on besides just having the capacity to execute, to react to whatever conditions exist at that particular point in time, up to and including the pandemic, which likely will still be having some impacts, so I think the American people can feel comfortable that the postal service will deliver on this election.