Local post office personnel say they aren’t currently experiencing staffing issues due to the COVID-19 pandemic, while many area residents have complained about missing mail and packages for several days or weeks. Other local postal employees have resigned from their posts due to reported frustration with overtime and lack of pay.

Postmasters of Newburg, Newville and Orrstown post offices “politely declined” to provide any information regarding their current staffing situation during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Cindy McAllen, postmaster of the Newburg Post Office, did note that their post office is currently doing fine.

In a telephone interview on Jan. 21, Rodney Rowe, postmaster of the Shippensburg Post Office, explained they are now in great shape despite previous staffing issues.

“Right now we’re at 100 percent,” he said. “We were down for a while, but now we’re 100 percent. The processing distribution plants are down. We did have people out on COVID, including myself. I know they tried to bring people in, but I don’t know what they got because I wasn’t here. I know they brought other postmasters in to help run the office and stuff like that.”

Deliveries were behind at the Shippensburg Post Office while staff was out due to COVID-19, but have since caught up, Rowe noted.

“Just for a very short period of time,” he said. “We are 100 percent currently in this office. Like I said, they brought other people in to help get everything caught up.”

Postal employees work just about every holiday, whether there is a pandemic or not, Rowe explained.

“We have people work every holiday,” said Rowe. “We deliver Amazon every holiday, every Saturday and every Sunday. The only two we don’t are New Year’s and Christmas. They are the only holidays we don’t work. That has nothing to do with COVID, that’s just Amazon delivery.”

In relation to reported mail and newspaper delivery delays, Rowe assured that the post office delivers everything, although weather can be an inconvenience. 

“We deliver everything we get,” he said. “We’ve had a couple times that they didn’t deliver them because of the snow. But as soon as they get here, they get delivered.”

As a public service announcement for the community, Rowe mentioned to keep mailboxes clear during weather events.

“With the weather, ensure that your mailbox is cleared and to keep in mind a carrier is not supposed to back up at a mailbox,” he said. “So, they have to have a clear path in and out of the mailbox without having to back up, with snow and all that.”

Rowe would also like the community to know that the Shippensburg Post Office is hiring.

 

Employee frustration

Heather Porter, who recently resigned from the Shippensburg Post Office, noted a few other employees have also resigned.

“It was a regular rural carrier, an assistant rural carrier, and a clerk,” she said. “Basically since before Christmas we have been working over our salary hours consistently, and we only got paid overtime for the two weeks over Christmas. There is not enough help. There were days we were working 12 hours and those who are salary were only getting paid for 8 to 9 hours. Harrisburg is one of the biggest problems. Due to COVID, a lot of people had to take a leave to take care of kids or they had to quarantine because they either had COVID or were exposed to COVID. The mail was so backed up in Harrisburg that we were getting just raw letters that would typically be put in order by machines. Our packages load was double in most cases, and they would dump us with 1 to 3 days of mail depending on the day. At one point, I would say a third, if not more, of people were out in our office because of testing positive or being exposed to someone inside the building. I cannot say for sure, but we are 99 percent positive that the building was never closed down and cleaned due to these positive tests. I resigned for those reasons, and the fact that we could never get our days off due to being short staffed, my children were left home alone most days and then to top it off, you can't even get your contracted days off. Then, if you do take your contracted day off, in most cases, your route sat and was never even delivered until you came back to work.”

“The management at the Shippensburg Post Office is terrible,” Porter added. “The supervisor and the postmaster have terrible communication skills. We were supposed to be getting paid for all the extra raw mail and the multiple runs of letter mail, but to this day, we still haven't received any of that.”

Porter later noted that another local rural carrier has resigned.

Rowe could not be reached for comment on Porter’s allegations before press time Wednesday.

Residents in the area shared their experience with recent mail deliveries with The News-Chronicle.

Rhonda Koch has dealt with delayed mail in Carlisle.

“Mail delivery has been absolutely horrible,” she said. “There are residents that have lived at their current address forever and are not receiving their mail. Eventually, mail is received and there is a yellow sticker on the envelope that says it is undeliverable and needs investigated! I work for a business and customers are not receiving their bills until after the due date. This not only affects the customers, but the business is affected by this also. Hopefully they soon fix the problem!”

Steve W. said, “We have USPS informed delivery,” he said. “We get emails of what to expect in the mail delivery each day. For the most part, mail delivery has been positively consistent, except for the past two snow days. It’s been UPS packages that have been delayed receiving. Some weeks longer than anticipated delivery dates. The USPS mail scanned into email for Monday/Tuesday this week (as of Feb. 3) has not arrived, obviously due to snow. But the mail I received today was two pieces of mail not scanned or shown in informed delivery email. Hopefully mail previously scanned will arrive Thursday, Feb. 4.”

Sue Clever shared her struggle with postal service.

“Harrisburg and Lancaster are gigantic issues based on my experiences,” she said. “I mailed a package two-day PRIORITY MAIL to Oregon on Dec. 21, 2020. I paid $75 to mail it. It took two weeks. It sat in Lancaster with no further scanning for almost the entire time until I submitted an online complaint/inquiry. By the way, no one ever responds to those inquiries even if you request them to. I mailed a package to Washington State, two-day PRIORITY MAIL, on Jan. 6, 2021. I paid $25 to mail it. It took until I (AGAIN) sent an inquiry/complaint. It was scanned in Walnut Bottom, where I mailed it from, and Harrisburg is where it sat for days. It was delivered on Jan. 19, 2021. No response from them. I have a tracking number for a small package mailed to me from Ohio. On Jan. 19, it has shown in Harrisburg since Jan. 22. I live in Walnut Bottom. I tried to go online and submit an inquiry/complaint. They are disabled. This should be a state auditor general complaint. I deserve my money back in all cases. This is atrocious.”

Alice Norton said, “I received a Christmas card postmarked Dec. 16, yesterday Jan. 28 mailed in St Louis, Missouri.”

Andrea Katz said, “We received a letter today at our home in Newburg, which was postmarked Dec. 5 in Shippensburg. We joked that we could have walked it much faster.”

Paul and Eunice Barner said, “On Jan. 11, we received a Christmas card that had been postmarked in Harrisburg on Dec. 18. A few weeks ago, I talked to a worker in the post office who said that they have all been putting in extra hours, sometimes at multiple post offices.”

Erin Purvis explained her appreciation for the Newville Post Office as she noted they have had a rough time with a staffing shortage and delays due to sorting centers.

“My mail carrier, Scott, and the postmaster, Steven Musselman, have been phenomenal,” she said. “Scott takes care to deliver our mail and packages with care. He takes pride in his job and it shows. Speaking of pride in their job, Steven and the staff at our Newville office really do take pride in their jobs. They are stuck between a rock and a hard place. The issues stem from the setbacks in the sorting centers and hubs. I have had quite a few packages lost or severely delayed, but Steven has been on top of helping me track them down. I have spoken to Steven at length about this situation and I can see him hold back tears of frustration and disappointment when he talks about how many cases he is saddled with on a daily basis because of this. He described the sorting centers, and I just pictured the scene from Jim Carrey’s ‘The Grinch’ where the Grinch is in the post office making a mess and tossing the mail around. Due to COVID-19, the staff is low, and the new people don’t have the experience to run the sorting machines so everything is done by hand. ‘Forty percent decrease in staff and 40 percent increase in mail,’ was what he said. It is heartbreaking to see someone want to help the community, but can only do so much. Sadder still, Steven is the face of the USPS for Newville, and so he is the one who receives the abuse from unhappy patrons. It isn’t his fault! He is trying! It is definitely a thankless job. I truly hope your request for feedback is not a witch hunt aimed at our community USPS office. If a carrier is mishandling mail, that is one thing and should be addressed. I can wholeheartedly say that Steven would address that concern appropriately if brought to his attention. However, the infinitely delayed mail is not our post office’s fault, they are the end of the line. It is the delays further out that are causing issues. I have personally handed packages to staff in the office and watched it get scanned. I have waited 48 hours to check the tracking and see that the only time it was ever scanned after my drop off would be when it left Newville. After that, the package is never scanned at the sorting centers or hubs. Newville is doing what they need to do. Again, I hope this is not a witch hunt to place blame on the Newville USPS staff. I hope it is an attempt to help shed light on the causes of these delays and garner some kind of understanding and compassion for our carriers and the USPS staff so they can do their jobs without fearing getting their heads bitten off over things they cannot control.”

Desai Abdul-Razzaaq, USPS spokesperson serving the Central Pennsylvania District, provided an official statement in regard to staffing and deliveries during the pandemic, the holiday season and recent snowstorms.

“The United States Postal Service delivered a record number of holiday packages for the American people under some of the most difficult circumstances we’ve faced in the past century — specifically more than 1.1 billion packages were delivered this holiday season amidst a global pandemic. Throughout the peak season, the Postal Service, along with the broader shipping sector, faced pressure on service performance across categories as it managed through a record of volume while also overcoming employee shortages due to the ongoing surge in COVID-19 cases, winter storms in the Northeast, as well as ongoing capacity challenges with airlifts and trucking for moving historic volumes of mail. As volume pressures strained the system during the peak season, the Postmaster General and the Executive Leadership Team took a number of specific action steps to help address the issues.

Those action steps included:

1. Working with union leadership, we adjusted and increased full-time career staffing by more than 10,000 positions in several facilities across the country, which will stabilize our operations and improve performance.

2. Consistent with past peak seasons, we have fully utilized overtime to allow employees to work the time necessary to process the record volume.

3. We extended lease agreements on annexes used to provide additional package processing and dispatch capacity beyond the holiday peak season.

4. Implemented in August of 2020, we realigned organizational reporting structures, providing greater visibility by the executive team into operations, allowing for quicker responses to issues. As the holiday inventory continues to drop, the Postal Service fully anticipates further improvements in performance.”

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