Missing Mail: What's Behind the Delays?

Mail delays continue to plague the U.S. Postal Service

NBC Universal, Inc.

One month after the holidays, people are just now receiving Christmas cards postmarked early to mid-December. And complaints have been pouring into NBC4 Responds from people who are waiting for their bills, medications and even stimulus payments. 

Annandale, Virginia resident Jessica To-Alemanji is waiting for her second economic impact payment from the IRS. The IRS’s “Get My Payment” tool shows it was mailed on January 6, but two weeks later it still had not arrived.

“I’m currently unemployed so we’re on a one salary income and so it is very frustrating because I need that money to pay my bills,” To-Alemanji said. Her payment finally showed up on January 22.

A viewer from Warrenton, Virginia contacted NBC4 Responds and wrote she and her neighbors “are not receiving utility bills, credit card statements, bank statements, retirement checks, medications.”

Another viewer from Prince Frederick, Maryland says a credit card payment was late but “we had no idea because the invoice and late notice they mailed us was also delayed.”

And a gentleman from Centreville wrote, “...the unreliability of the postal service is jeopardizing the normal functioning of our lives, repeatedly requiring time-consuming phone calls to resolve payments or bills that have not been received.”

We asked the U.S. Postal Service what’s behind the continued delays and when things will get back to normal. They sent us the following statement:

The Postal Service and all shippers experienced recent delays related to historic volumes of holiday mail while facing unprecedented challenges presented by the pandemic. Our service standards have been returning to normal in most areas and appreciate customers’ patience.

After our story aired, the USPS sent an additional statement. You can read it in its entirety at the end of this article.

Follow these steps to make sure you don’t end up with any missed or late payments on your bills:

  • If you are expecting a bill and it hasn’t arrived yet, contact the company. You can probably make a payment over the phone or online.
  • If you mailed a payment recently, call to make sure it’s been received. If it hasn’t, ask the company to make note of the issue on your account, and consider making a payment over the phone or online and stop payment on the check you mailed them.
  • Make sure you have online access to your accounts so you can monitor them. 
  • If you don’t pay bills online because you don’t want to share financial information with companies, consider setting up bill pay through your bank’s website. They will send the money on your behalf, without sharing your information.

As we head into tax season, you may want to consider filing your 2020 returns online to avoid delays. We’ve recently heard from people who mailed their 2019 returns or follow-up documents and are still waiting for those to be processed.

Additional statement from the USPS:

The United States Postal Service delivered a record number of holiday packages for the American people under some of the most difficult circumstances we’ve faced in the past century — specifically more than 1.1 billion packages were delivered this holiday season amidst a global pandemic.

Throughout the peak season, the Postal Service, along with the broader shipping sector, faced pressure on service performance across categories as it managed through a record of volume while also overcoming employee shortages due to the ongoing surge in COVID-19 cases, winter storms in the Northeast, as well as ongoing capacity challenges with airlifts and trucking for moving historic volumes of mail. 

As volume pressures strained the system during the peak season, the Postmaster General and the Executive Leadership Team took a number of specific action steps to help address the issues.  Those action steps included:

  • Working with union leadership we adjusted and increased fulltime career staffing by more than 10,000 positions in several facilities across the country which will stabilize our operations and improve performance  
  • Consistent with past peak seasons, we have fully utilized overtime to allow employees to work the time necessary to process the record volume
  • We extended lease agreements on annexes used to provide additional package processing and dispatch capacity beyond the holiday peak season
  • Implemented in August 2020,  we realigned organizational reporting structures, providing greater visibility by the executive team into operations, allowing for quicker responses to issues

As the holiday inventory continues to drop, the Postal Service fully anticipates improvements in performance. 

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