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U.S. Postmaster General backtracks from Trump, says he’s pausing changes ‘until after the election’

  • Listed below is the summary of the controversial U.S. Postal Service changes:

By Brett Samuels, THE HILL, 08/18/20

Postmaster general says he's pausing changes 'until after the election'

The postmaster general on Tuesday said he would pause changes to the operations of the Postal Service until after the election amid bipartisan outcry, a sharp reversal after President Trump spent days defending the agency’s actions.

“To avoid even the appearance of any impact on election mail, I am suspending these initiatives until after the election is concluded,” Louis DeJoy said in a statement.

The postmaster general said retail hours at post offices will remain unchanged, mail processing equipment and collection boxes will not be removed and no mail processing facilities will be closed.

DeJoy’s announcement comes as his leadership of the Postal Service has received withering scrutiny from lawmakers in both parties voicing concerns about mail delays and changes at the agency. The timing of the changes drew backlash given that voters are expected to heavily rely on mail-in ballots this November due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“I came to the Postal Service to make changes to secure the success of this organization and its long-term sustainability,” DeJoy said in a statement. “I believe significant reforms are essential to that objective, and work toward those reforms will commence after the election.

DeJoy, a major GOP donor and Trump ally who took over the role in June, is scheduled to testify before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on Friday. He is also slated to appear before the House Oversight and Reform Committee on Monday.

The Postal Service warned 40 states in letters late last week that their deadlines to request, return and count ballots may clash with the realities of mail delivery at a time when the agency is already facing financial troubles, delivery delays and an expected influx of election-related mail.

Lawmakers and voting rights activists have also raised alarms and photos and news reports of mail collection boxes being removed.

The fight over the Postal Service comes as Trump unleashes almost daily attacks on mail-in voting, sowing doubt about its reliability and warning that its widespread use will lead to a tainted election result. Experts have repeatedly noted that there is little meaningful fraud associated with mail ballots, and a handful of states already conduct their elections via mail-in voting.

The new Postmaster General, Louis DeJoy, has ordered changes in mail delivery policies since taking the reins at the agency in June, which has fueled concerns over the Postal Service’s ability to handle the ballots.

Here is a summary of the controversial U.S. Postal Service changes:

* Starting in July, delivery drivers have had to leave at scheduled times even if their trucks are not fully loaded with mail, according to internal Postal Service documents and officers at postal unions. Previously, trucks often waited for mail sorting facilities to finish processing and loading the day’s mail before carting it to branches for delivery by letter carriers.

* The Postal Service has ordered restrictions on overtime hours for clerks and carriers, part of a bid to cut costs at the financially-troubled service, which reported a net loss of $2.2 billion in the last quarter.

* The agency has ordered letter carriers at hundreds of post offices to head out on their routes immediately in the morning, carrying only packages and letters that were sorted the night before, according to an internal memo seen by Reuters. In some post offices, mail carriers have said the unsorted mail waits an extra day to be delivered. In others, carriers have said they double back to pick up a second batch later in the day.

* Some smaller post offices have been ordered to close at lunchtime to keep labor costs down, according to a memo seen by Reuters.

* Postal workers have reported that the agency is removing some mail sorting machines from facilities across the country. White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows on Monday said that initiative began under DeJoy’s predecessor. Postal officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

* Both Democratic and Republican members of Congress have voiced concerns over reports that curbside mailboxes have abruptly been removed in some states. U.S. Senator Jon Tester of Montana on Friday said the Postal Service had stopped removing mailboxes in his state.

A Reuters photographer over the weekend spotted a large pile of mailboxes in a storage facility in Hartford, Wisconsin, outside Milwaukee. People who lived nearby said the pile had grown noticeably larger in recent weeks.

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