DeJoy: No operational changes in Postal Service before election

An Amazon package is loaded onto a U.S. Postal Service truck, Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020, Portland, Maine. Facing public pressure and state lawsuits, the Postmaster general announced Tuesday he is halting some operational changes to mail delivery that critics warned were causing widespread delays and could disrupt voting in the November election. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Postmaster General Louis DeJoy said he would suspend his initiatives until after the election “to avoid even the appearance of impact on election mail.”

The abrupt reversal comes as more than 20 states, from New York to California, announced they would be suing to stop the changes. The states, along with lawmakers and others, want to ensure voters are able to use mail-in ballots if they prefer to avoid polling places due to health risks from COVID-19.

“The Postal Service is ready to handle whatever volume of election mail it receives,” DeJoy said in a statement.

DeJoy will appear Friday before the Senate to testify on initiatives and service changes that lawmakers and others have claimed could imperil the November election.

Democrats and say actions by the new postmaster general have endangered millions of Americans who rely on the post office to obtain prescription drugs and other needs, including an expected surge in mail-in voting this fall.

DeJoy, who has over 30 years of experience in logistics and is a former supply-chain CEO, took over the Postal Service in June.

“I want to make the post office great again,” President Donald Trump said on “Fox & Friends.” Later at the White House, he denied asking for a mail-delivery slow down.

Trump told reporters he wants “to have a post office that runs without losing billions and billions of dollars a year. ”The House is expected to vote Saturday on legislation that would prohibit changes at the agency. The package will also include $25 billion to shore up the Postal Service, which faces continued financial losses.

The Postal Service said Sunday it would stop removing its distinctive blue mailboxes through mid-November following complaints from customers and members of Congress that the collection boxes were being taken away. And White House chief of staff Mark Meadows pledged that that “no sorting machines are going offline between now and the election.”

“That’s something that my Democrat friends are trying to do to stoke fear out there. That’s not happening,” Meadows told CNN. Asked about reports that hundreds of sorting machines were recently removed — causing mail delays across the country — Meadows said they were part of an “already scheduled reallocation.”

DeJoy, the first postmaster general in nearly two decades who was not a career postal employee, has pledged to modernize the money-losing agency to make it more efficient. He eliminated most overtime for postal workers, imposed restrictions on transportation and reduced of the quantity and use of mail-processing equipment.

Meanwhile, the Postal Service is seeking a short-term rate increase that would raise prices on commercial domestic competitive parcels, including Priority Mail Express, Priority Mail, first-class package service, Parcel Select and Parcel Return Service. The agency cited increased expenses, heightened demand for online packages due to the coronavirus pandemic and an expected increase in holiday mail volume.

In a letter to postal staffers last week obtained by The Associated Press, DeJoy said his policies have brought “unintended consequences that impacted our overall service levels,” but added that the Postal Service “must make a number of significant changes which will not be easy, but which are necessary.”