After surmounting fears about losing the ability to vote by mail and much uproar from people across the country, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy has officially announced that he’ll suspend the recent changes he made to the United States Postal Service until after the November election.
“There are some longstanding operational initiatives — efforts that predate my arrival at the Postal Service — that have been raised as areas of concern as the nation prepares to hold an election in the midst of a devastating pandemic. To avoid even the appearance of any impact on election mail, I am suspending these initiatives until after the election is concluded,” DeJoy said in a statement released by the USPS today.
DeJoy confirmed that retail hours at post offices won’t change, that mail processing equipment including sorting machines and blue mail boxes will stay where they are, and that no mail processing facilities will be closed. He also asserted that necessary overtime will continue to be approved for employees as needed.
This comes in light of mass protests — some in front of DeJoy's home — have demanded more funding and better leadership for the USPS to survive, especially ahead of the election. Recent changes to the USPS implemented and overseen by DeJoy include the removal of mail boxes from neighborhoods in New York, Oregon, and elsewhere in America. DeJoy also announced the removal of high-speed sorting machines. Cutbacks in overtime and bans on "late" or "extra" delivery trips have also recently caused mail to pile up.
These changes, especially so close to the election in a year when so many people will be relying on the USPS to vote, alarmed millions of Americans. Now, DeJoy’s willingness to halt an overhaul of operations takes at least some accountability, while Trump continues to try and defund the USPS in hopes to impede on voting-by-mail in the general election.
However, as politicians are already pointing out, merely suspending these changes is not enough action, given that DeJoy has already green lit several operations in key states. Americans have reportedly been largely impacted already — not receiving their medication on time, not being able to send rent checks, and more. Prominent figures have begun responding to DeJoy’s announcement, emphasizing that this is the bare minimum that must be done.
“Let's be clear — Postmaster General DeJoy needs to REVERSE these changes, NOT just suspend them. We need sorting machines turned back on, mailboxes put back, and Post Office hours restored. Anything less still amounts to sabotage of our postal system,” Sen. Sherrod Brown tweeted. Raising similar concerns, Sen. Elizabeth Warren tweeted that, “Our work is far from over. We've got to reverse the damage DeJoy has already done, investigate his conflicts of interest, and fully fund the USPS. He and Trump have shown us the lengths they'll go to in order to sabotage the Postal Service — and we can't let them off the hook.”
The timing of DeJoy's decision isn't lost on anyone, though. This news comes after ranking member Sen. Gary Peters called on DeJoy to testify before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs after outcries concerning the safety of the November election and people’s ability to vote by mail during the pandemic. The hearing is set to happen Friday.
"I am grateful for the commitment and dedication of all the men and women of the Postal Service, and the trust they earn from the American public every day, especially as we continue to contend with the impacts of COVID-19," DeJoy also stated in his announcement. "As we move forward, they will have the full support of our organization throughout the election.”
At the moment, questions still remain — like what exactly will the USPS do to fix what's already gone wrong? And if these changes are only suspended until after the election, what exactly does that mean post-November? Of course, if DeJoy intends to continue to break the USPS down in the future, it looks like he’ll have plenty of people to answer to.