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Michigan postal service holiday package 'inquiries' increase fivefold in 2020

Mail delivery delays continue due to leave program
Posted at 10:07 PM, Apr 28, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-28 23:30:28-04

(WXYZ) — At the start of the pandemic, COVID-19 infections seriously impacted mail delivery. But now more than a year later, mail is still not getting delivered in several metro Detroit locations.

"It makes me feel angry," said Sharon Williams. Williams lives on Detroit's West Side, and says sometimes she has to wait an entire week before receiving mail.

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Postal customers all over metro Detroit want to know why they’re having to wait days, and sometimes weeks, to get their mail delivered. Those delayed deliveries often mean late bills with extra late fees.

"My credit is going to be affected," said Williams.

And remember all those trucks lined up trying to deliver packages at the Allen Park Network Distribution Center during the great holiday mail slow down? Christmas gifts vanished or arrived weeks late, upsetting kids and grandparents alike who couldn’t travel due to the pandemic.

"The whole thing makes me really sad. They didn’t receive the gifts that I put a lot of work into," said Connie Collins after her packages that were mailed to Michigan from Iowa were delayed over the holidays.

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USPS officials told us they don’t track specific complaints but they do log customer “inquiries.”

The 7 Investigators learned from December 1, 2020 through January 10, 2021, there were 2,791,137 customer inquiries about packages-- that’s 3.6 times higher than the same time frame the year before, when there 773,674 inquiries.

And the 2020 Michigan customer holiday package inquiries were five times higher (101,674 v. 19,662).

That's when we decided to do some of our own package tracking. We sent a GPS tracking device, along with some Channel 7 swag, to our sister station in Corpus Christi Texas. I shipped the box with a 3-Day Priority Mail label on Friday April 9th, and it arrived four days later on Monday. KRIS-TV reporter Seth Kovar mailed me a box that same Friday. Five days later, it arrived in Southfield on a Tuesday.

Then we tracked the packages again, this time using regular stamps in large envelopes to see if that would affect the travel time.

Our tracker left Corpus Christi on Thursday, April 22, and arrived back at Broadcast House in Southfield within five days, on Monday, April 26.

Even though the packages arrived relatively quickly, there’s another major problem plaguing the post office that’s now affecting daily First-Class mail delivery.

Hundreds of postal workers are using the Emergency Federal Employee Leave program made possible by the new COVID relief bill that was signed into law in March. It allows those with child care or COVID-19 issues to stay home up to 60 days and get paid.

The Detroit District USPS manager told Congresswoman Brenda Lawrence (D-Southfield) that the federal leave policy has depleted their ranks.

"He said, right now, the city of Detroit alone has over 100 employees in that status, and the metro Detroit area has over 500," said Rep. Lawrence.

Lawrence spent 30 years working for the postal service before serving in Congress and says she’s trying to get answers from Postmaster General Louis DeJoy about the current hiring crisis at USPS. She has a meeting scheduled with DeJoy on Thursday.

"Whatever your hiring practices are — they have an issue with retention. So he has to fix that and make that a number one priority," said Rep. Lawrence.

American Postal Workers Union Detroit District 295 President Keith Combs says another thing slowing down deliveries is some internal re-organizing that’s caused confusion in the motor vehicle and expediter divisions.

"I think there’s several different pieces of this pie that have combined together to make a huge problem," said Combs.

Combs says he knows customers are fed up, and he’s asking for a little more patience.

"We are going to work this out," said Combs. "Until we get that workforce back and are able to address all the mail we’re used to doing, it’s going to be a little bit of a slower process."

Because so many employees are on federal leave, their co-workers have to work mandatory overtime and are exhausted.

"Postal employees are once again working long hours, in some cases 16 hours a day, 7 days a week to make sure the mission is complete," said Combs.

WXYZ-TV has reached out to USPS repeatedly, but they have refused to talk to us about postal service issues on camera.

To send feedback or file a complaint about mail delivery problems, click here.