BALTIMORE — In complaints and statistics, mail delivery in Baltimore is bleak. According to United States Postal Service Office of the Inspector General, Baltimore is among the worst in the nation for on-time delivery performance.
“Baltimore has more often than not underperformed the nationwide average since fiscal year 2012,” said Congressman Gerald E. Connolly, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Government Operations, which held a field hearing at the University of Baltimore on Tuesday to address poor delivery performance.
Two audits by the USPS OIG in the last several months uncovered mismanagement, broken equipment, attendance issues, and improper scanning resulting in decreased productivity and nearly a million pieces of delayed mail.
Federal legislators questioned Acting Executive Baltimore Postmaster Eric Gilbert about his progress in implementing recommendations outlined in the audits and when customers can expect to see improvements.
“Can you guarantee though that there will, from this point onward, be a significant change in those numbers in terms of the operations here in Baltimore?” asked Congressman Kweisi Mfume, a member of the Committee on Oversight and Reform.
“My daily focus is that to ensure we get better, we get it right, and we move the mail to the communities we serve,” Gilbert responded.
“But you can’t guarantee it?” Mfume asked again.
“Not at this time,” said Gilbert.
A local mail processing clerk also testified that staff vacancies, employee retention, and properly training workers are among their greatest challenges.
“We do not have enough workers and when we hire new employees, they're not trained how to sort the mail. This leads to mail being given to carriers out of order, which forces letter carriers to skip entire blocks and bring mail back to the station or worse mail to be delivered to the wrong address,” said Rictarsha Westmoreland, a Baltimore-area mail processing clerk and shop steward.
Postmaster Gilbert acknowledged they’ve struggled with their performance but said they’re on the right path.
“Right now, I think we have the necessary tools, materials, and employees to accomplish the mission,” said Gilbert.
When asked if federal legislators are confident there will be significant and lasting improvements under Gilbert’s leadership, Senator Chris Van Hollen responded that the jury is still out.
“My answer is we’re going to continue to keep the pressure on until it does. Accountability’s important at the Baltimore level it’s important at the federal level. Like others, I’ve already concluded some time ago at the very top [USPS Postmaster General Louis] DeJoy needs to go because that failure in management has a system wide impact,” said Van Hollen.
Legislators also expect to see improvements with the passage of the Postal Service Reform Act. The bill passed in the House of Representatives with bipartisan support last week and is expected to be voted on in the Senate this week.
The bill helps with funding USPS by eliminating a mandate to prepay future retirement health benefits and requires employees to enroll in Medicare when eligible. These measures are estimated to save around $50 billion over the next 10 years.
It would also require USPS to create an online dashboard with national and local data displaying delivery times.