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DeJoy's Plan To Overhaul Postal Systems Draws Criticism

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

The U.S. Postal Service is developing a 10-year strategic plan, which is triggering plenty of debate amid talk of higher prices and even slower delivery. NPR's Brian Naylor reports.

BRIAN NAYLOR, BYLINE: If your mail has not been showing up some days or you're getting second notices on the bills you thought you'd paid, you're not alone. Mail delivery times continue to fall below standards, something Democratic Senator Gary Peters of Michigan says is not acceptable.

GARY PETERS: The standard for the Postal Service has been that mail gets delivered on time 96% of the time. But what we're seeing nationally is roughly 80% percent and, in some areas, considerably less than that. In Detroit, for example, it's roughly 74%. So that's still an unacceptable standard.

NAYLOR: Peters, who chairs the Senate committee that oversees the Postal Service, was one of more than 30 Democratic senators who wrote to Postmaster General Louis DeJoy last week asking for an explanation of the poor on-time delivery rates. Many congressional Democrats, upset with the Postal Service since DeJoy was named postmaster general last year, are calling for his ouster. Peters isn't there yet, but he's none too happy with DeJoy's leadership.

PETERS: I certainly have concerns about his performance to date. I think the numbers speak for themselves. But my focus right now is to make sure that we appoint a full complement of the board of governors.

NAYLOR: It's the board of governors which has the actual power to name a postmaster general. President Biden could name as many as four new members to the board, something Peter says he's been working with the administration on. It's not clear what DeJoy's 10-year plan to reform the Postal Service will look like, but The Washington Post reported it includes slowing the delivery of some local first-class mail. Paul Steidler of the conservative Lexington Institute says what he calls degrading first-class mail is a terrible idea.

PAUL STEIDLER: You shouldn't even call it first-class mail if it takes three days for something to get a short distance.

NAYLOR: Steidler says it will be the poor and the elderly who will be hurt most by slower mail deliveries.

STEIDLER: There's going to be greater instances of court notices not being received on time, payments to credit card companies not getting in on time and penalties being assessed and a whole plethora of difficult things. And it's completely unnecessary.

NAYLOR: There's also concern that DeJoy will propose raising postage rates to put the service on sounder financial footing. Michael Plunkett, president of the trade association PostCom, says that idea makes no sense.

MICHAEL PLUNKETT: Customers of the Postal Service have been experiencing the worst service in decades in the last couple of months, and it seems to me to be shortsighted and perhaps imprudent to plan on a large price increase in the middle of a pretty significant economic recession, when your customers are extremely dissatisfied with the level of service they've been experiencing.

NAYLOR: In a statement, DeJoy says he'll be sharing more details of the 10-year plan in the coming weeks, but he won't comment on what exactly is in it until then.

Brian Naylor, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF CAVES OF STEEL'S "KEEP PAINTING") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.