U.S. Sen. Mark Warner held a 45-minute virtual press conference Tuesday morning in Washington to discuss Charlottesville mail, calling the backlog of mail delivery “inexcusable.”
Warner also said he was disappointed that nothing had been done to speed up mail delivery in Charlottesville since his Aug. 23 visit to the city to investigate the reasons for the chronic delays.
“There remain enormous problems in Charlottesville,” Warner said.
Postal service nationwide has been slow as the USPS struggles with financial problems, worker shortages and, some say, management issues. But Charlottesville’s delivery problems are particularly serious, with many residents going weeks without receiving any mail at all. The Daily Progress received more than 125 emails from readers on Monday and early Tuesday when it asked people to tell their experiences from a weekend surge of mail that Warner had helped bring about.
Many said the surge brought them long-awaited mail, but many more said the surge did not help at all. Nearly everyone expressed concerns that the surge — which brought as many as 63 extra mail carriers to town on Sunday — would not solve the long-term problems. Some wrote about receiving bills past their due date. One person wrote about not receiving tickets on time to an event for which she had already paid. Another wrote about having a birthday card returned after three-and-a-half months. Many complained of the stress associated with trying to find their mail, calling or writing USPS to find their mail — and then never receiving an answer, or their mail.
Part of the reason for the delays is that there are as many as 16 mail carrier vacancies in the Charlottesville region, Warner said. While employment is high in the area, Warner said that’s no excuse.
“Why the heck haven’t they already had a couple of job fairs,” Warner said.
He said he had given the area time to adjust to a new postmaster but that he has grown impatient. Like many Charlottesville residents said, Warner said he does not blame the mail carriers, whom he said are “working their butts off.”
Whether related to Warner’s comments or not, the USPS Charlottesville announced a job fair for this Saturday, Oct. 9, within three hours after his 45-minute press conference ended. The fair will be from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. at the main post office at 1155 Seminole Trail.
Warner said management errors and lack of transparency about the Charlottesville Post Office “frustrates the heck out of me.”
“At the end of the day, the postal workers, we set them up independent from influence from elected officials, so that’s appropriate. But there’s only so much rattling of the cage I can do, I really think it’s going to take pressure from me, it’s going to take pressure from the press and others to get more clarity,” he said.
Over the weekend a “surge” of extra mail carrierswere assigned to the area to address the backlog of mail that has been an ongoing issue for many for much of 2021.
Stuart Evans, who lives in the city’s Fry’s Spring neighborhood, said sometimes his neighborhood will get two deliveries in a week, and then they’ll go almost two weeks without getting anything.
“I have read that people get just junk mail, but thank goodness, we are getting a mix,” he said in an interview Monday. “But for periodicals, for example, I just got two issues of the same magazine, so it’s great, now I have lots to read. But … it’s like, do I continue to get hard copies of these magazines? Or do I shift to digital only?”
Warner said that management in the region told him a “contingency force” will be here to help continue to “beef up and fill in the gaps” on mail delivery.
“But they’ve not giving the exact numbers, they’ve not told me how long, so I think this is going to require from me and others constant attention, and it’s a little bit frustrating,” he said.
His next step will be taking this issue to the national level by again contacting U.S. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy. And, Warner said that he intends to be in Charlottesville again in person in early November, or maybe sooner.
“Clearly, I’m not seeing changes at the rate I’d hoped and expected, and while I’m glad that there was this surge of the 55 additional carriers on Saturday 63 on Sunday, that is at best a stopgap effort,” Warner said. “We got to get more people, we got to get more carriers.”
Warner said he was “very disappointed” that there has not yet been another job fair since he toured the building and held a press conference in August.
“I think there is a hiring problem nationwide, statewide, but I think it’s more acute in the Charlottesville area and I am very disappointed, I need a better answer on why they haven’t gotten that job fair, and frankly more than one job fair, scheduled, and that’s one of my next steps,” he said.
In a release from USPS about Saturday’s job fair, the postal service said it’s hosting the job fair to “fill immediate openings for career, part-time and seasonal positions.”
When asked about speaking with someone at the Charlottesville Post Office for an interview, Freda Sauter with USPS corporate communications referred The Daily Progress to Philip Bogenberger, a spokesman with the U.S. Postal Service based in Charlotte, North Carolina, who said he would see what he could do. There was no further response by press time.
Warner said he has not yet spoken with DeJoy, only written to him, but that he needed to “get with Mr. DeJoy directly.”
“The concerns about Mr. DeJoy were broad-based, and I wonder why … there is now a new majority of the postal Board of Governors … they’ve only been in a couple of months, but I would think they’re hearing these same concerns, why they haven’t acted, he said. “I’ve got to dig into that, as well.”