After the White House issued an emergency declaration regarding the COVID-19 pandemic in late winter of 2020, many people began working from home. But like others deemed essential, U.S. Postal Service employees continued reporting to work. The mail had to keep moving; critical items such as medications, stimulus payments, and Social Security checks became even more important.
In a recent audit we looked at how well the Postal Service was able to move mail during the early stages of COVID. We found that despite unforeseen and uncontrollable challenges — higher package volumes and increased employee absenteeism due to the pandemic, among others — Postal Service management modified normal mail processing, customer service, and delivery operations well enough to mitigate the impact of the pandemic during the early stages.
We also found USPS generally coordinated and communicated regularly with commercial mail customers, conducting weekly meetings to inform the industry of any operational changes that impacted mailer operations. Additionally, management launched a COVID-19 Response Email Campaign reassuring commercial customers of minimal disruption.
We did find some things that could have been done or formulated better, such as the process for alerting delivery units of late arrivals from mail processing and distribution centers. And we identified opportunities to improve the process for prioritizing the delivery of postal products for medical purposes and to enhance the employee availability dashboard by including rural carriers. But the good news is while mail may have been slowed during the onset of the pandemic, it did indeed keep moving — and fairly well, all things considered.
We are continuing our work on service issues in certain harder hit areas and throughout the incredibly busy holiday mailing season. Additionally, in separate audit products we have analyzed or are reviewing impacts of operational changes and the performance of the Postal Service surrounding the election.
What has been your experience with the Postal Service during the COVID crisis? Have you seen consistent performance or has performance improved or declined with the continuing impacts of the pandemic?