Richmond Times-Dispatch: Virginia members of Congress press Postal Service over mail delivery

CHARLOTTE RENE WOODS, RICHMOND TIMES-DISPATCH

Amid ongoing problems with mail delivery in Virginia, U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va. and seven other members of Virginia’s congressional delegation have written to the United States Postal Service’s Inspector General to press their concerns.

The letter follows delays and disruptions in local mail service and a recent court case that involved theft of mail by former mail carrier. Kaine’s office has requested a tour of the Richmond Regional Processing and Distribution Center in Sandston, which is currently being audited by the Inspector General’s office.

Kaine said in a press call Wednesday that he hopes the tour can happen soon. He said a tour was supposed to have happened sooner, but he suspects the facility has delayed the meeting to “clean up their act.”

“If our demand to tour has lit the fire under them so that they’re doing better — that’s why it’s good for us to come,” Kaine said.

The letter’s signers are Kaine, Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., and Reps. Rob Wittman, R-1st, Jen Kiggans, R-2nd, Bobby Scott, D-3rd, Jennifer McClellan, D-4th, Bob Good, R-5th and Abigail Spanberger, D-7th.

According to the letter, the facility was one of the first consolidation projects under the postal service’s “Delivering for America” initiative.

“While we are always open to changes to longstanding practices to improve efficiency,” the Virginia members of Congress wrote, “the ongoing stream of reports we get suggests that the opposite is happening.”

In their letter Kaine and his colleagues wrote that it is “concerning” to hear reports from constituents about issues.

“While we are always open to changes to longstanding practices to improve efficiency, the ongoing stream of reports we get suggests that the opposite is happening,” the lawmakers wrote.

It includes anecdotes from Virginia who have had problems with their mail service. For instance:

  • A Vietnam veteran from Mechanicsville placed an order through the Department of Veterans Affairs for medication and was told to expect a 7–10-day delivery time. More than six weeks later, he had not received his medications despite verification from the Department of Veterans Affairs that it was mailed on December 28.
  • A woman who runs a medical supply business in Richmond said that more than $1,000 worth of medical supplies were never delivered after having been traced to the Richmond RPDC on December 18, 2023. The letter said that after multiple inquiries with the postal service the woman never recovered the supplies, “and their business relationship with a key distributor ended as a result.”
  • A Ph.D. student at Virginia Commonwealth University, “counted on USPS to deliver his visa application to the Italian Consulate as is needed to acquire a student visa to Italy. However, the entire package, including his passport, was lost in transit having never left Richmond.” The resulting delays cost the student “hundreds of dollars and weeks of uncertainty about his academic future.”

Richmond’s voter registrar recently discouraged voters from sending in mail-in ballots for the March 5 Super Tuesday presidential primaries, citing unreliable service. Richmond’ Commonwealth Attorney Colette McEachin blasted local the local USPS for not participating in a Feb. 2 town hall, and a former postal worker recently pleaded guilty to stealing mail.

In addition to discussing the postal issues Wednesday, Kaine addressed delays with Congressional approval of government spending. He attributed some of the delay to the leadership shakeup in the House of Representatives after lawmakers ousted Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif. and it took time for the House to elect Rep. Mike Johnson, R-La. as speaker.

But having already approved about half of the annual government spending last week, Kaine said he is confident the nation’s legislative body will be able to agree on the rest by the end of next week to avoid a government shutdown.

It could be trickier to reach consensus, as the next bit of government spending approvals include the Defense, State and Homeland Security departments — areas where there is disagreement on U.S. aid to Ukraine and Israel and security at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Good, head of the House Freedom Caucus, has routinely pressed for more funding to go to border security and in recent years appropriations votes have stalled over disagreements. Congress sometimes passes continuing resolutions to avoid shutdowns.

But Kaine feels confident at least Virginia’s congressional delegation is committed to getting the votes through by March 22.

“We had our delegation lunch (Tuesday) and I asked the Virginia House members ‘is it going to happen next week, or is there some chance you’re going to do another short term (continuing resolution) to extend?’ And all of them said there’s no appetite for another extension,” Kaine said.

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