The United States Postal service has sent extra postal carriers from around the state to Charlottesville this weekend to help resolve the backlog of mail that has plagued Charlottesville for months, according to U.S. Sen. Mark Warner.
Community members have been complaining that they have had to wait weeks for mail delivery, with few to no official answers from USPS about where their mail is and why it is not being delivered.
In a Saturday morning emailed letter to area residents who have contacted him about USPS issues, Warner said the additional mail carriers would provide “a temporary surge to resolve the backlog of mail in the area.”
“In some instances, mail carriers will be passing through mail routes multiple times this weekend – including on Sunday,” he said. “In an effort to address the longer-term needs, USPS will also hold a job fair in the coming weeks to fill open positions in the Charlottesville area.”
In August, Warner said the Charlottesville office is about 14 carriers short. Warner did not specify how many extra carriers would be on hand during the weekend surge.
It is unclear how many complaints have been made and how many packages and letters have not been received.
According to the postal service career website, Charlottesville is hiring for city carrier assistants at $18.51 per hour and rural carrier associates at $19.06 per hour.
The lack of delivery and late delivery of Charlottesville mail has persisted for months. Warner and U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine sent a joint letter in February to U.S. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy about local issues. Warner also visited the Charlottesville Post Office in August, and later sent a USPS Virginia District Manager, Gerald Roane, “urging him to create contingency plans for the vacant postal service positions resulting in widespread mail deliveries.”
But it is unclear if anything happened until this weekend. In his email, Warner said he will continue to seek solutions. He did not say what those might be.
“I plan to visit Charlottesville again before the end of the year and will continue to pursue legislative solutions to make sure that the postal service is able to fulfill its constitutionally mandated mission,” Warner said in the Saturday email.
Those who are missing mail can send information to his office through the casework page on his website at warner.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/helpwithfederalagencies.
Warner asked for information from those with issues, including any relevant tracking numbers or other details related to delivery performance, such as a listing of days in which no mail delivery occurred.
Recently, Larry J. Sabato, founder and director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, complained on Twitter that he had not yet received his requested mail-in ballot for the upcoming Nov. 2 election.
“NO BALLOT YET (or any other mail for days — and I get a lot),” he said in a tweet. “How many Virginians are in this predicament? I suspect many are.”
Early voting started last month, and Albemarle voters can cast an early ballot at the 5th Street County Office Building at 1600 Fifth Street, while voters in Charlottesville can vote early at the city’s election office at the City Hall Annex at 120 7th St. NE.
Early voting in Albemarle will be open from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays and from 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Thursdays at the 5th Street County Office Building in Room A.
In Charlottesville, early voting will be open at the City Hall Annex in Room 142 from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays. On Thursdays, early voting will be open from 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Both localities will also hold two Saturday early voting days from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Oct. 23 and Oct. 30.
Postal service issues are not new to Charlottesville. In 2010, the postal service closed its Charlottesville sorting plant and moved operations to Sandston, near Richmond. Mail sent from one side of the city to another must first be trucked to Richmond for sorting and then back to Charlottesville for delivery.
There have also been staffing and leadership issues. Cloteal Farmer, who became the Charlottesville postmaster in 2017, is still listed as the Charlottesville postmaster on the USPS postmaster finder webpage. But when Farmer is looked up by her name, it says she went to the Glen Allen Post Office in late 2018.
In August, the president of the Virginia branch of the National Association of Postal Supervisors, a management organization representing postal supervisors, told The Daily Progress that the organization wants USPS to hire more managers and employees. He said that the biggest issue that Charlottesville postal workers face is having to take on additional routes and work overtime on a regular basis to make up for a shortage of employees.
Starting this month, the Postal Service is implementing new service standards for first-class mail and periodicals. Current first-class standards require three-day delivery for any destination within the contiguous U.S. with a drive greater than six hours, but that will expand to up to five days.
According to USPS, 61% of first-class mail and 93% of periodicals will be unaffected by the service standard changes, and standards for single-piece first-class mail traveling within a local area will continue to be two days.