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Sen. Kaine cites mail delivery problems in Arlington in letter calling for postal improvements

Customers line up outside the Shirlington Post Office to send out packages (Staff photo by Jay Westcott)

The saga of slow mail delivery in Arlington continues.

Now, U.S. Senator Tim Kaine (D) is bringing the county’s issues to the federal government.

There have been grumblings for years of spotty mail delivery service in parts of Arlington. Locals frequently post stories of their problems getting or sending mail on the social media platform Nextdoor.

Now, Kaine is asking the United States Postal Service to review these frustrating experiences and provide explanations and a list of steps USPS will take to fix them.

“I am concerned that Virginia communities as far-flung as Smyth County in Southwest Virginia, the Richmond area (nearly 300 miles away from Chilhowie by highway), and Arlington, across the river from Washington, D.C., are all experiencing missing bills, medications, tax documents, and days/weeks without mail,” Kaine wrote in a letter — which he sent electronically.

“My constituents are understandably frustrated and eager to know if help is on the way. I appreciate any information you can share,” he continued.

Kaine referenced one specific story he heard from an Arlingtonian who “repeatedly went several days without mail over the period of several months and did not receive specific items, including a Virginia Auto Registration from the DMV and a Virginia Driver’s license.”

In the letter, he included the response from USPS:

After investigation and consultation with local management, it has been found that the office may experience delivery delays due to employee availability issues. However, they are taking the steps necessary to ensure every effort has been made to deliver the mail daily. The route in which your constituent resides is current however delivery on this route maybe later in the day. Once again, please allow us to apologize for the unfortunate customer experience.

His letter also detailed issues from other parts of the state, including missed mail or infrequent or late-at-night delivery as well as never-returned phone calls requesting assistance.

“I request that you review these concerns, provide information on how these are being addressed, and share what factors are causing what appear to be systemic challenges with processing mail promptly and getting it successfully to the right place,” he said.

Within the last week, one Colonial Village resident took to Nextdoor to say it took two weeks for a check to go no more than four miles as the crow flies.

“I can top that,” a neighbor replied. “My mother in law showed us two pieces of mail that she just got returned to her. The postmark was from 2021.”

“A few months ago I mailed a letter 2-day Priority, Signature Required at the 22204 Post Office,” a third user said. “It took 8 days to get to a 22201 address!”

Some users were more optimistic, calling on neighbors to increase their use of USPS.

“We should keep using the Postal system because the more we use it, the more funding there is, the better the service will get,” wrote one woman.

Another issued a recruiting call to arms.

“Let’s spread the word to older teens and twenty-somethings looking for work that not just the Post Office, but the Federal Gov’t itself needs sufficient numbers of good public servants in order to run well,” she said.

Kaine encouraged Virginians experiencing issues with USPS to reach out to his office. He concluded his letter with a trio of questions for USPS:

In previous correspondence, USPS has indicated that staffing shortages connected to the COVID-19 pandemic are largely responsible for delays. The casework responses to some of these cases indicate that insufficient staffing continues to be an issue with some of these delays. But now that we are closer to an overall post-pandemic posture, to what degree is this still a problem, and why?

Are there region-specific bottlenecks in any of these regions — Southwest Virginia, Richmond/Central Virginia, Northern Virginia — that can explain these challenges, and if so, could you summarize what changes are being made to address this?

Beyond the Postal Service Reform Act, are there other systemic changes you believe policymakers should consider that would have the overall effect of reducing these types of issues?

The release said Kaine helped pass the Postal Service Reform Act, which President Joe Biden signed into law last April, and “remains committed to ensuring that the legislation is efficiently and properly implemented.”

One provision requires the Post Office to develop and maintain a public dashboard tracking service performance and report on its operations and financial condition.

Mostly, the legislation was intended to improve the financial viability of the Post Office, Federal News Network reports. Despite the funding changes, USPS is having to offset inflation, lower mail volume and $2 billion in losses this fiscal year with continued rate increases.

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