Elected officials hearing mounting complaints over spotty mail service

Complaints about the increasing unreliability of mail service in some areas have been surfacing around the state and nation for weeks. It’s not just a matter of getting Christmas cards and packages a little late — any hope the delivery delays may be largely due to the surge of packages during the holiday crunch appear to be fading, according to the Brainerd Dispatch.

One East Gull Lake resident, who wished to not be identified, said Thursday, Jan. 5, she is still waiting on mail sent to her at the beginning of December but she isn’t getting any answers. The lack of communication from the post office is frustrating, she said, and led her to waste hours of her time waiting in line only to return home empty-handed.

“Everyone has a horror story,” she said. “As we’re standing there for those many hours, in the freezing cold, you heard people’s stories. One woman was there sobbing because her sister’s partial remains were supposed to have been delivered, and people were coming for the memorial service and she wasn’t getting the package. Mothers who have small children were sobbing because their kids weren’t getting their Christmas gifts.”

An online poll on the Dispatch’s website indicates 73 percent of the the more than 775 respondents to date have experienced delays in mail delivery by the U.S. Postal Service. As a result, frustrated constituents have started logging their complaints with the offices of elected officials at all levels of government.

“There was a constituent from Brainerd who didn’t get the mail to her house for over three weeks,” Stauber said by phone from Washington, D.C. “That’s just unacceptable. And so the answer is yes, we’ve had a number of constituents very concerned about the delayed mail delivery to their homes.”

With everything from medications to Social Security checks and pension checks arriving in people’s mailboxes, the delays are affecting those who may not have ready access to a doctor or pharmacy, the Congressman said — specifically, those who live in rural Minnesota.

“We’re seeing the grave concerns that are negatively affecting our families across (the) Northland,” Stauber said.

Much of the blame for the surge of inconsistent delivery of letters and packages is due to a shortage of postal service workers. It’s not clear what, if anything, elected officials can do to fix the problem. But that didn’t prevent the Crow Wing County Board from taking action, passing a resolution calling on the feds to provide more funding to make it easier to recruit postal employees.

“I’m hearing from quite a few people that are claiming they’ve gone 10, 12 days without any mail delivery whatsoever,” [Commissioner Paul] Koering said. “As we all know, seniors, senior citizens, a lot of people receive their prescription drugs by mail. So this is kind of a catastrophic deal when you’re not getting your medications.”

Koering added he’d heard from a township government official concerned about missing a deadline to cash a check from the state, from people running home businesses who cannot send or receive invoices in a reasonable amount of time and people who are receiving bills after they’re already past due.

The post office may never have been a model of customer service, but that could be overlooked in exchange for the certainty the mail would be there no matter what six days a week. The breakdown in delivery may be sporadic at this point, but it threatens to undermine the one thing the post office, for all its faults, always had going for it.