NH senator asks USPS, GAO to resolve mail delivery problems

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CHESTERFIELD, N.H. — U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., is asking the Inspector General of the U.S. Postal Service to conduct an investigation into mail delivery problems in the village of Spofford and other towns in the Granite State.

"Spofford residents report that beginning in May 2019," wrote Hassan in a letter dated Jan. 27, "when their previous mail carrier retired, they began experiencing several mail delivery issues, including multiple-day delays impacting medications and documents, deliveries to incorrect addresses, and significant errors in mail tracking systems. Despite contacting their postmaster, residents report no improvements in mail delivery and difficulties in reporting their issues. Since December 2019, residents report that mail delivery issues have worsened with delays lasting more than a week, reportedly because of a shortage of drivers."

Hassan wrote that her office "has worked diligently to resolve these issues with the aid of the Northern New England District Office in Portland, Maine."

However, she wrote, "major problems remain." Hassan asked that the Inspector General determine "the systemic causes of these issues" and identify potential solutions.

Hassan is also requesting that the Government Accountability Office, an independent government agency, "examine the Postal Service's rural delivery performance and report to Congress on what could be done to improve rural delivery service."

"I am concerned that [the Postal Service's] efforts to address financial and operational challenges in the past several years have disproportionately affected rural communities," wrote Hassan in a letter to the GAO, also dated Jan. 27. "I routinely hear from constituents who have experienced delivery and other problems and have been unable to resolve the issues with the USPS."

Hassan noted that the USPS has been facing challenges "in responding to customer issues" in the face of competition from commercial delivery and email services.

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In her letter to the Inspector General, Hassan wrote that she has heard from constituents and post office employees not only in Spofford, but also in Sunapee, Newport, Bradford, Gilford and Laconia.

The chairman of the Sunapee Board of Selectmen told Hassan that between Nov. 27 and Dec. 4, 2019, the Town Office did not receive any mail at all. In Bradford, residents complained that sometimes it took up to a week to get their mail. "When they attempted to pick up their mail from the Bradford Post Office after significant delays," wrote Hassan, "they were informed that the mail has yet to be broken down for delivery."

When Hassan's office contacted the Laconia Post Office about delayed mail deliveries, she was told it was due to inclement weather. "However," she wrote, "residents report delivery delays even when the weather was not an issue, reportedly because of staffing shortages ..." Residents in Gilford and Laconia told Hassan's office that even when the mail is delivered, it is late and sometimes "left on the side of the road or tossed in snowbanks ... When mail or packages have gone missing, residents report that they are unable to contact the post office and their complaints have gone unanswered."

Many analysts blame the challenges facing the USPS on the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act, signed into law by Congress in 2006, which requires the Postal Service to prefund its retirees' health benefits up to the year 2056. By the end of fiscal 2017, USPS owed the fund more than $38 billion.

"This is a $5 billion per year cost; it is a requirement that no other entity, private or public, has to make," wrote Barry Ritholtz, a Bloomberg Opinion columnist, in 2018. "If that doesn't meet the definition of insanity, I don't know what does. Without this obligation, the Post Office actually turns a profit."

Ritholtz noted that some have called this a "manufactured crisis."

"It's also significant that lots of companies benefit from a burden that makes the USPS less competitive; these same companies also would benefit from full USPS privatization, a goal that has been pushed by several conservative think tanks for years," he wrote.

Bob Audette can be contacted at 802-254-2311, ext. 151, or raudette@reformer.com.


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