Many Chicago residents have been experiencing mail delays for months.
Some are simply irritating, like Christmas cards being delivered in February. But other delays can be far more consequential, from late unemployment checks to potentially lifesaving prescriptions.
“It’s been really unbearable,” said Ald. Andre Vasquez (40th Ward). “It’s been, even pre-COVID, days and even weeks of just not getting mail. And then getting a day with a huge pile of all the mail. Sometimes people are waiting for months.”
Vasquez says he’s also been increasingly frustrated by the lack of responsiveness from the local leadership of the Postal Service.
“The fact that they are not even communicating and not letting people know what is going on, that’s what is making it worse,” said Vasquez, who added that he supports U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush’s call for local Postmaster Wanda Prater to resign.
Mack Julion, president of Chicago’s postal workers union the National Association of Letter Carriers Local 11, says the service has been understaffed for at least the last 18 months.
“The Chicago Post Office has been understaffed for at least a year and a half. This is not just COVID-related,” Julion said. “The pandemic has exacerbated the situation. And right now, unfortunately, a lot of what you hear is true … as shocking as it is, customers are going days and weeks without mail delivery.”
Julion also backs the call for a change of local leadership.
“We definitely need to go in another direction because our customers in Chicago certainly deserve a better service than they have been receiving,” Julion said.
South Side resident Grovena Galbreath says she’s been noticing problems since October when she went to drop off a package at her local post office in Pullman and “noticed an extremely long line.”
Galbreath initially thought the long lines were due to social distancing and limited access to the post office because of the coronavirus pandemic. But after talking to those in line, she realized it was mainly people, including many elderly residents, trying to find out what had happened to their mail, including some who had been “waiting weeks for medications.”
Despite numerous complaints, Galbreath said no one from the USPS has got back to her.
In an emailed statement to WTTW News, a spokesman for the USPS in Chicago said that the agency apologized for the disruption in services, blaming staff shortages, the pandemic and recent heavy snow for the problems and says it is working to hire 200 additional letter carriers.