In interviews over the past two weeks, nearly a dozen U.S. Postal Service employees said they’d heard of someone like Ella, either along routes they work or from carriers they assist; someone who had a piece of important, sometimes irreplaceable mail go missing; a vital medication, a check sorely needed to cover the rent, or the cremated remains of a loved one. Similar stories have been reported nationwide, and the cause is no mystery: Louis DeJoy, a GOP mega-donor who was appointed postmaster general in June, enacted sweeping procedural changes in July that resulted in massive backlogs of mail across the country. Among the changes were cuts in overtime and requirements that mail carriers return to their offices on time, even if their routes are unfinished. The changes and the backlogs they created continue to stir fears over the safe delivery of American ballots ahead of the Nov. 3 election.
“I don’t know if you’ve heard about the dead birds? We’re getting that here, too,” a letter carrier from Boston said, recalling a story that went viral last month about hundreds of birds that died in USPS custody. “I know people laugh about the junk mail and the ads and stuff, but we still do a lot of really, really important specialized stuff. And that’s the stuff that they’re losing track of. Things like bees and birds and things that are time-sensitive. And that wasn’t happening before.”