RI delegation decries cuts, changes to Postal Service

Providence

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — In the ongoing controversy surrounding the U.S. Postal Service, lawmakers on both sides have expressed concerns over recent attempts to scale back service with less than three months until the general election in November.

In response to what they’re calling “systemic sabotage” of the Postal Service by President Donald Trump and U.S. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, Sens. Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse and Reps. Jim Langevin and David Cicilline held a news conference Tuesday morning outside of the Corliss Street Post Office in Providence.

Update: Postmaster general says he will suspend Postal Service reforms until after election »

All four members of Rhode Island’s congressional delegation said legislation to fund and restore the expected service of the Postal Service is coming.

“The post office today is more important than it’s ever been because people are facing not only the normal rigors of life, but a pandemic that is taking Americans left and right,” Reed said.

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On Monday, the four delegates penned a letter to DeJoy, saying any action to undermine the operations of the Postal Service is “unacceptable,” including reported efforts that affect hardworking postal workers and the effectiveness of the postal system.

Related: Mail ballot deadlines ‘sufficient’ for delivery in RI, but not Mass., USPS says »

DeJoy recently slowed delivery, reduced sorting machines and operating hours in some states, and decided that mail-in ballots will no longer be considered priority mail. Trump has defended his actions, calling him a “very talented man.”

The congressmen called out the recent changes to service, and Sen. Whitehouse shared stories from constituents who are not receiving medication on time and having bills arrive late.

“The Postal Service has been reliable, you know it’s going to be there, you know the mail is going to be delivered,” he said. “It takes the Trump administration to foul that up.”

The White House said it’s continuing to do go through with these changes in an effort to streamline Postal Service operations Trump calls “over budget.” Reuters reports the service experienced a $2.2 billion loss last quarter.

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“I’m outraged because these changes pose a threat to our public health and the integrity of our elections in a time when mail delivery is more important than ever,” Langevin said.

Democrats argue the cost-cutting measures can wait as up to half of registered voters are expected to vote by mail this November due to the pandemic. Lawmakers are worried the cuts will strain the system and the changes will only make it worse.

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On Tuesday, Republican National Committee spokesperson Liz Harrington released a statement calling the claims a “conspiracy theory” and saying “Democrats and the media are meddling in our elections again.”

“Both Donald Trump and Barack Obama have complained about the post office for years,” she wrote. “What’s not routine? Sending millions more ballots out when voters never requested them.”

“Democrats don’t need to invent conspiracies to find problems with vote-by-mail. They could read the local papers. Or open their eyes,” Harrington continued. “In Indiana, hundreds of ballot applications were sent with the Democrat box already checked. In Fulton County, Ga., and Washington, D.C., ballots went missing. In Clark County, Nev., Democrats sent out 1,325,934 ballots and ‘nearly as many were undeliverable as returned: 223,469 and 305,000.’ The other 797,465? Many ended up piled in apartment buildings and the trash.”

Read Harrington’s full statement here.

Rhode Island and Massachusetts both have primaries next month. Some voters have been seen hand-delivering their bail ballots, while unions say their members are seeing these impacts first-hand.

“I’ve heard a lot of people that have mailed things and they still haven’t received them five weeks later,” said Pamela Libby of Newton, Mass.

“They don’t have enough people to process the mail to get it to different areas,” one man added. “They just let it sit till the next day.”

The U.S. House is set to vote on legislation this Saturday that would prohibit further changes to the Postal Service.

Eyewitness News reached out to USPS Northeast for comment but has not heard back.

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