Gottheimer Fights to Support Postal Service in Face of Delays, Cuts, Equipment Removal in North Jersey

Gottheimer visits Paramus Post Office to sound the alarm on interference within the Postal Service

Above: Gottheimer at the Paramus Post Office today

Today, August 18, 2020, U.S. Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5) visited the Paramus Post Office to highlight nationwide Postal Service interference and delay issues impacting the delivery of lifesaving medication to seniors and veterans, Social Security benefits, paychecks, tax returns, and absentee ballots.`

In North Jersey, Gottheimer has been discussing issues with local postal worker unions, including ongoing mail delivery delays, the removal of mail processing machines, and new USPS measures to reduce the level of service.

“Here in the Fifth District, delay issues echo what we’re hearing all throughout the state and our nation: constituents not getting their first-class mail or the medications they need on time. By tampering with the mail in order to slow down the delivery of absentee and mail-in ballots, the Postmaster General’s actions to sabotage the USPS are impacting the health, safety, and economic security of North Jersey veterans, seniors, families and our small businesses,” said Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5). “Let’s be clear — there are plenty of things that need to be fixed in the postal system, and many have been fighting for years to get it done. But gutting the mail and playing politics with the postal system three months before the election is simply unacceptable.”

Gottheimer continued, “Right now, there is bipartisan, bicameral support for putting the Postal Service back on a financially sustainable path and ensuring we aren’t shortchanging service to the American public.”

Gottheimer has heard reports that some of the processing machines that sort more than 36,000 letters an hour have been taken away from a local USPS processing center in nearby Teterboro, NJ, and that mail is backed up in all of the processing facilities due to fewer machines and overtime cuts at the centers.

Gottheimer was joined today by Kevin Tabarus, President of the National Postal Mail Handlers Union, Local 300; Michelle Kimber, NJ State Executive Board Member of the National Postal Mail Handlers Union, Local 300; Richie O’Connell, President of the NJ State Association of Letter Carriers; and Bergen County Executive Jim Tedesco

Later this week, the House of Representatives will return to Washington to vote on important legislation to safeguard the U.S. Postal Service and ensure the timely delivery of mail, medication, and voting materials.

Next week, the Postmaster General will be testifying before the House Committee on Oversight and Reform.

Because of the COVID crisis, the Postal Service has seen a dramatic surge in the number of packages from online shopping. From April to June, the Postal Service’s package volume increased by 708 million packages, up about 50% from last year.

The USPS has shipped 1.2 billion prescriptions last year alone and 80% of veterans receive their medications by mail, usually within a 3-5 day window.

Watch today’s event HERE.

Gottheimer’s full remarks as prepared for delivery are below.

The United States Postal Service is a lifeline for Americans across the country, especially for families, businesses, and residents all throughout North Jersey.

Right now, there is widespread reporting of actions at the federal level to tamper with the way our Postal Service functions, all with the goal of interfering in our democratic system — by purposefully delaying mail, including that of absentee ballots and mail-in ballots, at a time when it’s safest for many to easily vote from home

Tampering with our postal system is not only about interfering with our most basic right, it affects people’s ability to pay their bills, seniors from getting their medicine, and veterans from getting their disability benefits.

Right now, the Postal Service is experiencing recent cuts, slowdowns, the dismantling of sorting machines, and the removal of equipment.

But according to New Jersey Postal Service union officials — reported by the Star-Ledger — they’re seeing mail delivery delays and unprecedented changes to operations that they believe are intended to hobble the agency. One said, “There is a problem with mail being delivered,” and that, “They weren’t even sorting [mail] until seven days after its expected delivery date.”

The President recently declared: “Now they need that money in order to make the post office work so it can take all of these millions and millions of ballots,” —— “Now, if we don’t make a deal, that means they don’t get the money. That means they can’t have universal mail-in voting, they just can’t have it.”

Again, that’s what the President said — of our own United States Postal Service, that’s led by the Postmaster General, a political appointee and friend of the President

This is insane and unacceptable and it’s why I am headed to Washington on Saturday to ensure that the Postmaster General can’t implement any changes to slow down the operations or reduce the level of service the USPS had in place until this pandemic is over — and to ensure there are enough resources to run the postal system through COVID, where they are facing increased costs.

Congress is also hearing from the Postmaster General this coming Monday, where he’ll appear before committee and be questioned about this mountain of issues.

Let’s be clear: there are plenty of things that need to be fixed in the postal system, and many of us have been fighting for years to get it done. But gutting the mail and playing politics with the postal system three months before the election is simply unacceptable

What should we fix long term? The average age of USPS trucks that typically deliver mail are 24 years old.

It is malpractice for this Administration and the Postmaster General to stand in the way of such a vital service.

But it doesn’t stop there. Actively working to dismantle the USPS has consequences far beyond the interference of Amazon Prime deliveries and absentee ballots.

In addition to tampering with the mail, the Postmaster General’s actions to sabotage the USPS are tampering with the health, safety, and economic security of North Jersey residents, seniors, veterans, and our small businesses

Here are the facts:

Hundreds of thousands of seniors depend on the mail to receive their Social Security checks.

In terms of economic security, small businesses — many of which are already struggling right now — rely on mailing products to customers and clients.

Because of the COVID crisis, the Postal Service has also seen a dramatic surge in the number of packages from online shopping since the start of the pandemic. From April to June, the post office’s package volume increased by 708 million packages, up about 50% from last year.

But where this really matters? Seniors and veterans here in North Jersey and throughout the nation rely on USPS to receive life-saving medications by mail. In fact, USPS shipped 1.2 billion prescriptions last year alone.

80% of veterans receive their medications by mail, usually within a 3-5 day window. By delaying their critical medication deliveries, the health and well-being of the brave men and women who’ve served our nation are in jeopardy.

We’ve heard that some veterans are experiencing doubled or even tripled wait times for key medications delivered by USPS — without explanation.

For our veterans’ disability benefits, the vast majority of essential correspondence, forms, and decision notifications related to disability benefits are sent through the mail. This delay could slow down the entire disability benefits process — just as the backlog is growing due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Over 900,000 active-duty members of our military are eligible for absentee ballots because they’re deployed or stationed in a location outside of their voting residence.

The Postal Service itself has warned that voters in 46 states, including New Jersey — even if they send in their ballots by state deadlines — may be disenfranchised by these manufactured delays.

Not only do these delays have real life implications that threaten the lives of our seniors and veterans, as well as impacts on small businesses in our local North Jersey communities, but these delays will be a detriment to our democracy when families and active-duty military can’t get their ballots in on time.

Here in the Fifth District, delay issues echo what we’re hearing all throughout the state: constituents not getting their first-class mail or the medications they need on time.

What’s causing this? “Operational changes” within the USPS have been put in place by the Postmaster General — and we’ve had little transparency into the problem.

I’ve heard from multiple sources — here in North Jersey — that these changes in how the USPS operates have caused delays for residents receiving mail –– and it could get worse.

The delivery schedule for running mail has become rigid. Now, carriers must operate on “scheduled trips” where they must leave at a certain time and if mail is not picked up before, it gets left behind until the next day.

From one of our local unions representing Postal Service workers, I’ve heard that the “scheduled trips” format causes a lack of flexibility for last minute mail.

This ends up leaving mail behind to be taken to the processing center for the next day — mail that could be a much needed prescription or important stimulus check — like the 35 million direct COVID relief payments that were already sent out by check.

If there is extra mail, workers at the post offices need approval from higher-ups in order to get that extra mail out the door the same day, which is an incredibly cumbersome process.

Traditionally, postal workers have been trained not to leave letters behind and to make multiple delivery trips to ensure timely distribution of letters and parcels — but no more.

Operational changes are supposed to cut red tape –– something I’m always fighting for –– and make everything more efficient so everyone can benefit. These limiting scheduled trips are anything but that.

I’ve also heard — here in North Jersey — that some of the processing machines that sort more than 36,000 letters an hour have been taken away from our local USPS processing center in Teterboro, and that mail is backed up in all of the processing facilities due to fewer machines and overtime cuts at the centers.

Specifically, here in Paramus, this Post Office normally has sixty to seventy letter carriers but now is down to fifty-two and the efforts to hire new carriers have fallen short.

This is all while — I’ve been told — here in Paramus the package volume is up 40%.

These operational changes that are now in place come from the federal level — the Postmaster General and the Administration.

What’s taking place is active work to dismantle the USPS in order to slow down the delivery of mailed and absentee ballots — all during a pandemic when it’s safest for people to stay at home and avoid crowded areas.

All of that — coupled with the impacts on seniors, veterans, and our local businesses — hurts all Americans and it must stop.

I’m glad that the Postmaster General will be appearing before the House Oversight Committee early next week, so that Congress can get some answers into what’s going on here.

I’m also glad that the House will be taking action later this week, by voting on important legislation to safeguard the Postal Service and ensure the timely delivery of mail, medications, and voting materials.

I’m also staying in close contact with our letter carriers and the unions throughout this.

Right now, there is bipartisan, bicameral support for putting the Postal Service back on a financially sustainable path and ensuring we aren’t shortchanging service to the American public.

I want to thank everyone here for joining me today. This vital service must be saved — our businesses, seniors, veterans all rely on the Postal Service.

I know that if we work together to solve this problem, we will come out stronger than ever and our best days will always be ahead of us.

Thank you, God bless you, and may God bless these United States of America.

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