Local officials criticize postal service cutbacks

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Rep. Jimmy Gomez speaks at a press conference outside a U.S. Postal Service facility downtown Aug. 18 criticizing the U.S. Postal Service for cutbacks that could impact the delivery of mail for the upcoming Nov. 3 election. With Gomez are Rep. Maxine Waters, left, and Rep. Nanette Barragan. (Courtesy photo)

Wave Wire Services

LOS ANGELES — Several members of the Southland’s congressional delegation gathered at postal facilities across the region Aug. 18 to decry what they allege is a concerted effort by the Trump administration to scuttle post office operations ahead of an election expected to rely heavily on mail-in ballots.

Democratic leaders across the country have been lashing out at what they call apparent slowdowns in mail delivery due to operational changes implemented by Postmaster General Louis DeJoy. The Democrat-controlled House is expected to approve a $25 billion spending package for the postal service this weekend in an effort to improve operations.

“We’re going to pass a bill [Aug. 22] to give the Post Office the $25 billion it needs for operational expenses, but also to provide guard rails to the post office and postmaster general in order to revert a lot of the changes that were done,” Rep. Jimmy Gomez, D-Los Angeles, said at a downtown postal facility. “That means putting back the sorting equipment, putting back the boxes, putting back what was already done and approving the overtime.”

Gomez was joined at the event by Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Los Angeles, and Rep. Nanette Barragan, D-San Pedro.

DeJoy issued a statement saying he was suspending operational changes until after the November election “to avoid even the appearance of any impact” on the handling of mail-in ballots.

“The Postal Service is ready to handle whatever volume of election mail it receives this fall,” DeJoy said in a statement. “Even with the challenges of keeping our employees and customers safe and healthy as they operate amid a pandemic, we will deliver the nation’s election mail on time and within our well-established service standards. The American public should know that this is our number one priority between now and election day. The 630,000 dedicated women and men of the Postal Service are committed, ready and proud to meet this sacred duty.”

DeJoy, a major campaign donor to President Donald Trump, has been criticized for cuts at the agency, including the removal of some sorting machines and collection boxes.

The moves came amid continued criticism by Trump about mail-in balloting, which he contends will lead to widespread election fraud. DeJoy insisted in his statement that some cuts at the agency pre-dated his arrival at the post office.

Southland legislators, at a series of events at various postal facilities, lashed out against cuts that have already been made, while expressing skepticism about DeJoy’s assurances.

“Vote-by-mail has become a very important part of our democracy, so we have to make sure that given all the election challenges that we have, we have to make sure the post office is up and running and is able to deliver democracy on time,” Rep. Lou Correa, D-Santa Ana, said.

Following DeJoy’s announcement, Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, D-Los Angeles, continued to express concern.

“In spite of the postmaster general’s commitments that he will support USPS operations, we must make sure he takes every possible action to ensure USPS operates at full strength and delivers mail swiftly now and in the future,” she said. “Our health, our finances and our democracy are at stake.”

Trump, who during a recent Fox News interview expressed reluctance to provide the post office with funding amid what he called Democrats’ efforts to expand mail-in voting, later denied trying to scuttle the agency or the election.

“The U.S. Post Office has been failing for many decades,” he wrote on Twitter Aug. 17. “We simply want to make the post office great again, while at the same time saving billions of dollars a year for American taxpayers. Dems don’t have a clue.”