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Nevadans wary of postal service changes

WASHINGTON — Nevada lawmakers said Friday that they were optimistic that three presidential appointees to the U.S. Postal Service Board of Governors can improve standards and delivery times following cost-cutting measures implemented last year that resulted in delays in service.

An analysis released this week showed Nevada could suffer the slowest mail delivery rates in the nation due to cost-cutting changes implemented under Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, who was appointed by President Donald Trump.

Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., last year called on the Postal Service and the Trump administration to speed up deliveries following complaints from rural Nevadans and veterans in the state who saw delays in shipments of prescription drugs.

She said Friday service has not yet improved.

“It’s clear the misguided proposals at the USPS are wreaking havoc on our mail delivery system, affecting seniors who are waiting for their prescriptions and small business owners who depend on the mail to conduct business,” Cortez Masto said in a statement.

DeJoy has cited more than $188 billion in postal service liabilities, and more red ink expected to spill over the next 10 years, as justification for cutting expenses, according to the Washington Post.

“We respect, embrace and believe that we can become self-sustaining again, not only because it is the law, but also because it can act as our North Star and set parameters around our decision-making,” DeJoy said during a congressional hearing in March, according to the Post.

Cortez Masto said she has pushed for new nominees to the postal board and changes that will ensure “this will remain a priority until we can be sure that Nevadans are getting their mail on time.”

President Joe Biden has appointed this year three new governors to the postal board — Ronald Stroman, Amber McReynolds and Anton Hajjar.

New members, new direction

Cortez Masto and Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev., said the appointment of new board members could reverse changes made to the postal service that began last year.

“I believe President Biden should do whatever is necessary to have the USPS Board of Governors remove Postmaster General DeJoy and we should seek ways to balance cost without cutting basic services and the reliability of the Postal Service,” Titus said in a statement Friday.

Other lawmakers also hope changes on the postal board can begin to halt what they called the dismantling of mail delivery services.

Rep. Bill Pascrell, D-N.J., was the first lawmaker to seek removal of DeJoy and said the damage was so severe that he and 50 other Democrats in the House urged Biden to fire the entire postal service board of governors. Pascrell also wrote to the new Biden appointees to the postal board to “explain if you disagree that ending Louis DeJoy’s tenure is in the public interest.”

DeJoy implemented the cost-cutting measures last year in order to save money at the struggling postal service. Those measures included eliminating sorting machines and a cut in overtime pay for employees. The cuts came as many states were conducting mail-in voting in the presidential election.

Those changes had an impact in New Jersey, and dropped on-time delivery rates to 38 percent nationally, Pascrell noted.

Delays in Nevada

Nevada, a critical state in the presidential election, also saw mail deliveries delayed.

Cortez Masto joined an amicus brief supporting the state of Nevada, which sued the postal service in 2020 over the rule changes that the state claimed caused unreliable service and widespread delays ahead of the election.

DeJoy suspended some of the changes, but has proposed more to make the postal service cost-efficient.

A Washington Post analysis based on interviews with officials and Republican and Democratic members of Congress, including those from Nevada, found little support for proposed changes if they result in delayed mail delivery.

Those officials noted that prescription drugs and other necessities are often sent by mail, particularly in rural areas not serviced by private shipping companies.

If all of DeJoy’s proposed changes are implemented, including postal rate increases, the delivery time for mail to Nevada residents would likely increase by an additional day, according to the analysis.

“This new analysis showing that Nevada would be the hardest hit state is deeply troubling,” Rep. Susie Lee, D-Nev., told the newspaper. “We should be working to make the USPS more efficient — not less.”

Currently, 85 percent of the state’s mail arrives within three days, but that will drop to 30 percent. Meanwhile, 40 percent of mail will need four days and 22 percent will need five days, according to the analysis.

Rep. Mark Amodei, R-Nev., told the Washington Post that there are “variables in any form of transportation.”

“But I can tell you that the road between Reno and San Francisco goes over this little thing called Donner Pass. And guess what? It closes in the winter when the Sierras get hit with a good storm,” Amodei said.

“…When a truck jackknifes on that one way or the other, they close the road. ‘Oh, well, sorry, it’s going to take five days to get your mail this time.’ I just look at all that with much less certainty, maybe some cost savings,” he told the newspaper.

Titus told the Review-Journal that “these additional proposals will severely impact the people in my district still reeling from the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Cortez Masto is working with the new postal board nominees to address the issues holding up mail delivery. “This will remain a priority until we can be sure that Nevadans are getting their mail on time,” Cortez Masto said.

Contact Gary Martin at gmartin@reviewjournal.com. Follow @garymartindc on Twitter.

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