DeJoy defends USPS efforts to correct ‘broken business model’ following court rulings
Postmaster General Louis DeJoy defends operational changes to the postal service, made before and during his tenure, which were suspended by several federal judges over the past week.
While plans to remove mail sorting equipment from processing plants predate his tenure, DeJoy said Thursday that some of the more than 700 machines targeted for removal were only operating at 35% to 40% of their time. full capacity and were inefficient to remain in service. .
“There are experts in the field who understand our ability to handle mail. These machines are expensive to maintain in this type of use, and these decisions were made at the field level and have continued. I heard about sorting machines when I read about them in the newspaper, ”DeJoy said in a virtual chat hosted by the Economic Club in Washington, DC
The postal service is at the center of nearly a dozen federal lawsuits aimed at ensuring the on-time delivery of ballots and other election mail ahead of the November election.
Washington state federal judge stranded last week policy changes at the agency that led to trucks leave mail processing plants on time, even if there is more mail to load there.
According to court documents Justice Department attorneys representing the Postal Service, USPS officials worked over the weekend to develop guidelines that would implement the court order and clarify agency policies on “matters related ”.
As of September 18, USPS headquarters also approved “all requests” sent to its director of processing operations to reconnect the mail sorting machines.
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But lawyers also asked the court to clarify its ruling on a few points, such as when the USPS fails to run its trucks on time “would result in an overall degradation of the Postal Service’s timely mail delivery operations.”
A broad interpretation of the court’s injunction, they warn, “would seriously harm the postal service and its ability to deliver mail, causing delays that would be contrary to the objectives that the plaintiffs expressly seek to achieve through this litigation. “.
In a Hearing of the House Monitoring and Reform Committee last monthDeJoy said the reduction in late and additional travel is not an operational change, but simply adheres to existing goals of delivering mail on time.
“I wouldn’t know how to reverse this,” DeJoy said at the hearing. “Do I have to say the trucks aren’t on time?” “
This week, another New York judge ordered the USPS to pre-approve the overtime required in the week leading up to polling day, and ordered the agency to propose a plan detailing all of the “necessary” steps to reverse mail delays.
The USPS last month suspended some operational changes, such as removing mail sorting equipment and letterboxes, as well as reducing post office hours. to avoid, as DeJoy put it, “even the appearance of an impact on election mail.”
DeJoy said the Justice Department has consulted with the USPS legal team and is reviewing court rulings to decide on its next steps.
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“We are in negotiations with them, and I hope that we will come to a conclusion without having to appeal to them,” he said. “We are ready and determined to deliver the election mail and these decisions are really not necessary, but at the end of the day we are following the law and the decisions will be made between us and the Justice Department whether we appeal or no, “he said.
The rulings also ordered the Postal Service to deliver all election mail at or above first-class mail standards, but DeJoy said this was a long-standing practice the agency will maintain. in the weeks leading up to the next elections.
“In many cases, we treat ballots with a higher priority than first class mail, and we will maintain the processes that we always have in the past, that is, if we see a ballot. vote, we want to get it through the system and get it delivered quickly, ”he said.
As the Postal Service came under scrutiny ahead of election day, DeJoy called on Congress and the Postal Regulatory Commission to work with him to correct the agency’s long-term business model. Part of the challenge, he added, is meeting the postal service’s legal obligation to cover its costs while delivering the mail to all addresses across the country six days a week.
“It’s an inefficient thing, a private sector company wouldn’t be able to do it. Every day we deliver mail on mules in the Grand Canyon and on small planes in Alaska. But that’s our mission and I’m an advocate for that and I believe in it, I think in the long run it’s our strength, ”he said.
No post-pandemic path for financial stability
After the election, DeJoy said the Postal Service would study operational inefficiencies that will save “real dollars” and help the agency become more sustainable.
Just before DeJoy entered office, the agency had informed Congress that it was on track to lose $ 20 billion in pandemic-related and cash-strapped losses by the end of September. While the agency secured a $ 10 billion loan under the CARES Act and now has enough money to operate until August 2021, DeJoy said there was no way clear to keep the agency solvent when it takes office.
As the former head of logistics, however, DeJoy said he sees late and extra trips between mail factories and post offices as a logical place to cut costs.
“This is the essence, the key attribute of the management of our network. If our trucks are not running on time, the downstream processes, which are our factors, are not running on time, and our factories are not producing on a schedule, and that creates chaos and additional costs, ”he said. he declares.
DeJoy said he asked Congress and the Treasury Department $ 7-10 billion to recoup some of his operating expenses during the pandemic, where he saw a dramatic drop in mail volume, but he has said the agency did not need the $ 25 billion in funding the House had tried to advance in coronavirus-related spending bills.
“We’re proud of the overall goal of self-sufficiency here within the organization, so we’re not looking for freebies. We’re on a self-improvement mission here right now… If they just gave us money, we’d be back in two years, regardless of the amount. Unless we make a fundamental change to our business model, we have a broken business model and we need to change that, ”he said.
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DeJoy said more than 10,000 USPS employees have contracted COVID-19 and that around 2,000 employees are currently out of work due to the coronavirus. The agency, which has more than 600,000 employees, has recorded 91 employee deaths from the coronavirus.
DeJoy also defended the agency decision to send postcard to households which was supposed to be a “general statement to the public” on the request for postal ballots, but listed deadlines that were inaccurate for some states. The state of Colorado filed a complaint which led to a decision blocking the sending of this postcard.
“It was a high level message. In some cases it wasn’t high enough and it conflicted with a few states, and that’s where we got some of the complaints, ”DeJoy said.
“The postal service is the most stable part of our postal voting process in recent years,” he added. “Our processes have been the same, delivery times and so on have been the same, and our message has been the same. It is basically “Vote early”. You don’t send your Mother’s Day card on Mother’s Day if you want her to receive it before Mother’s Day.