Why Residents Across Chicago Are Not Getting Their Mail

Holiday shopping season is here, and a record number of people are expected to conduct their business online due to the pandemic. 

That means an already strained U.S. Postal Service will be tested even further. Service has been sporadic at best in many parts of Chicago, with some residents telling us they haven’t received mail in a month. 

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We visited two areas that have been hit hard to find out what’s going on, and what can be done to fix it.

Lined up and waiting

It’s a common sight at the McGee Post Office on 46th Street and Cottage Grove Avenue: Customers are lined up, waiting to send or receive mail. Inside, they’re packed in without much ability to socially distance, trying to speak with postal representatives.

Many customers say they are only here because their mail is not regularly being delivered.

Ald. Pat Dowell says her 3rd Ward constituents in Bronzeville, Kenwood and Oakland have lost their patience with the postal service in general.

“People complain about not getting their mail, not receiving their packages, mail coming late, being delivered to the wrong address. This has been going on for a while,” she said.

It’s a similar scene at the Rogers Park branch on Devon Avenue.

Edgewater resident Pauline Scott says she hasn’t received mail delivery in a month. “The last time I got mail was Nov. 3. It is now Dec. 1,” she said.

Scott says packages have been lost, and she doesn’t know the status of some essential items she’s waiting on.

U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky says the problem has hit a crisis level in Edgewater, Andersonville and Rogers Park, and she says she’s had a hard time getting answers from USPS officials.

“They tell us that it has to due with COVID, that many of the letter carriers who are now are quarantined are sick, down like 40%. But what doesn’t make sense to me is why its so concentrated here,” Schakowsky said.

It doesn’t make sense to 40th Ward Ald. Andre Vasquez either. He says it particularly hurts the elderly and low-income residents of his ward.

“People get their medicine, they get paychecks, they get bills that they have to pay or else services get shut off. All of those things end up being affected,” Vasquez said.

We asked the USPS for an interview with Chicago Postmaster Wanda Prater. They declined our invitation, and said they’d look into the validity of claims made about these specific post offices. They say they are “flexing our available resources to match the workload created by the impacts of the ongoing Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.”

(Read the full statement from the USPS here.)

Chicago letter carriers union President Mack Julion says the problem simply boils down to a matter of staffing, and the problems are rampant throughout the city.

“It’s not just that area around Cottage Grove, it’s not just Rogers Park. It’s Auburn Park, it’s Mount Greenwood, it’s Ravenswood, it’s Dunning. There’s quite a few throughout Chicago,” Julion said.

Earlier this summer, U.S. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy came under heavy scrutiny because of cuts to overtime and the removal of hundreds of sorting machines. 

But Julion says the issues in Chicago predate DeJoy’s tenure and COVID-19.

“COVID just exposed how bad this problem is, but trust me, we’re not far off from good service. So we’re working with the Chicago Post Office, we’re hoping they can resolve this, and we’re hoping they’ll listen,” he said.

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On Monday, U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky told us the U.S. Postal Service assured it would hire eight additional employees at the Rogers Park station to mitigate the service delays. Julion says there are more routes than carriers right now and he’s working with the USPS to solve that.

Here is the full, automated response from the USPS:

We are checking to see if there is any validity to your inquiry regarding reported COVID-19 cases at two Chicago locations, Rodgers Park (60626) and Roseland (60628).

As you may know, under the Rehabilitation Act and the Privacy Act, specific employee medical information must be kept confidential and may only be shared in very limited circumstances. The Postal Service is continuing to monitor the circumstances around the novel coronavirus, also known as “COVID-19.”  We are sharing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) guidance regarding the COVID-19 epidemic to our employees via stand-up talks, employee news articles, messages on bulletin boards, and internal messaging inside USPS workplaces.

We are flexing our available resources to match the workload created by the impacts of the ongoing Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.  We appreciate the patience of our customers and the efforts of employees as conditions change on a day-to-day basis.   We encourage customers that have a concern with their mail delivery, questions about specific pieces of mail, and/or other service issues to contact their local Postal station or our Consumer Affairs office at 312-983-8403.

Follow Paris Schutz on Twitter: @paschutz

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