Tuesday April 13, 2021

U.S. postal head stresses threats facing agency's operation

Published : 25 Feb 2021, 00:35

  DF News Desk

U.S. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy is sworn in prior to testifying before the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Reform on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., the United States, on Aug. 24, 2020. File Photo: Xinhua.

In his first congressional hearing since the November election, U.S. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy told a House panel Wednesday his agency's operation was "profoundly threatened" amid the pandemic and apologized for mail delivery delays during the peak holiday season, reported Xinhua.

DeJoy, who was under heightened scrutiny last year as his critics linked him to controversies surrounding mail-in ballots that were hyped up during the election, stressed to lawmakers of the House Oversight and Reform Committee that struggles at the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) on timely delivery were "acceptable to no one."

"The Postal Service's ability to serve its twin mandate to bind the nation together and remain financially self-sufficient is profoundly threatened," said DeJoy, who retracted a series of cost-cutting reform measures last year after they were blamed for late delivery of mail-in ballots.

Pledging a strategic business plan that will come in the next few weeks, DeJoy said the USPS is "getting very close to" finalizing the plan, which involved the implementation of six- and sometimes seven-day delivery, as well as efforts to convert temporary workers to permanent ones, improve the fleet of delivery vehicles and add more sorting machinery.

The postmaster general apologized again at the hearing for delayed mail delivery, following a previous apology he made last year when concerns arose over whether mail-in ballots could be delivered on time for the election.

"I apologize to those customers who felt the impact of our delays," DeJoy said. "All of us at the Postal Service, from our Board, to our leadership team, to our union and association leadership, to every employee strive to do better in our service to the American people -- and we will do better."

Democrats last year viewed DeJoy, a major donor to former President Donald Trump, as someone who intentionally slowed down USPS delivery time to prevent Joe Biden from winning the election, as mail-in ballots were perceived to give the then Democratic candidate an insurmountable edge. A growing number of Democrats, therefore, called for DeJoy's ouster at the time.

This time around, though, Democrats were split on how to treat DeJoy. While some of them still want his sacking -- of which the authority was vested in the nine-member USPS board of governors, not President Biden -- others are inclined to a more moderate approach, hoping they can work with DeJoy to cut a deal on a long overdue bill to overhaul the USPS.

Biden has yet to weigh in on the matter. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Tuesday that filling the three vacated board seats is a "priority" for the president, stopping short of providing a specific timeline.

Currently, the USPS Board of Governors comprises two Democrats and four Republicans, all appointed by Trump. DeJoy told the hearing that none of the board members had called for him to resign, nor did he intend to do so.