Nine Illinois lawmakers sent a strongly-worded letter to Postmaster General Louis DeJoy outlining a series of problems with the new online portal.
A new online portal for members of Congress to file constituents’ complaints with the U.S. Postal Service was touted as a way of streamlining the process, but a group of Illinois Democrats on Tuesday slammed it — and vowed not to use it.
The Congressional Inquiry Portal was launched three weeks ago. It allows U.S. lawmakers to file constituents’ complaints about the quality of their mail service. But on Tuesday, nine members of the U.S. House of Representatives from the Chicago area said they have sent a letter to Postmaster General Louis DeJoy outlining a litany of problems.
“This new process is extremely cumbersome and bureaucratic, does not address the mail and package delivery issues our constituents are experiencing, is problematic for those who are not tech savvy or do not have access to a computer, and is simply not working,” according to the letter, which was provided to the Sun-Times.
U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky, who is leading the efforts to change the system, said her staff is no longer using the portal, since it puts her most vulnerable constitutents at risk of being forgotten.
“This complaint system is troubling on many fronts and because of that we are not going to use it,” Schakowsky said. “Right now, before we can even file a complaint in the portal, we are required to have a privacy release form signed by the constituents and that can be done online, but what happens if it’s someone who isn’t comfortable with using the internet?”
In those cases, Schakowsky said, they must mail the person a release form for them to sign and then that person has to mail it back to her office. She said her constituents are already waiting weeks for mail, so there’s no guarantee they will even receive the consent form.
“In some cases, we are honest-to-God talking life and death situations,” Schakowsky said. “People are waiting for their medications to come, and they don’t come … this system removes the direct access we have to help in these cases.”
The portal also is timely to use and can take nearly 10 minutes to file a single complaint. With her office typically fielding 20 to 30 phone calls a day about mail delays, just working the portal could be a part-time job, she said.
Her office normally logs daily complaints into a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet and then forwards that list to leadership in the Postal Service’s Chicago district.
It’s not ideal, but at least communication between her office and the Postal Service was open, Schakowsky said. They would get updates and know when issues were resolved.
This new portal replaces human interaction and with an automated procedure.
Previously, “we would get a response with the Postal Service saying they were reaching out to the individual,” Schakowsky said, “but we are not getting that from this new system.”
As a result, she added, “we aren’t sure if these complaints are even being addressed.”
Other House members signing are: Danny Davis, Bill Foster, Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, Robin Kelly, Marie Newman, Mike Quigley, Bobby Rush and Lauren Underwood.
Schakowsky said this new portal is another example of DeJoy making the Postal Service as inefficient as possible. Neither DeJoy’s office nor the Chicago district office for the Postal Service responded to requests for comment.
Since DeJoy became the 75th postmaster general just over a year ago, he has made cost-cutting moves that include the removing of hundreds of mail-sorting machines from facilities across the country, eliminating employee overtime that helped ensure mail is delivered each day and cutting hours at some post offices. DeJoy, a mega-donor to former President Donald Trump’s campaign, was also accused of slashing services in efforts to undermine mail-in voting in the 2020 presidential election.
DeJoy and postal executives have argued these cuts were necessary to reverse a projected $160 billion in losses over the next 10 years.
Quigley spoke with DeJoy over the phone on Monday and passed along along “the concerns of over 1,000 of my constituents who have contacted me about mail delivery delays this year alone,” Quigley said Tuesday. DeJoy, Quigley added still “has the opportunity to make progress in rectifying these longstanding issues.”
Schakowsky, however, believes DeJoy’s short tenure has been so bad it’s time for new leadership.
DeJoy was appointed by the Postal Service’s board of governors, and only that nine-member board can remove him. Board members are nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate.
DeJoy has largely had the backing of the board under Trump, but that might change, since the Senate approved President Joe Biden’s three new board members in May. The latest addition means five of the board’s nine members were appointed by Democratic presidents.
“We now have enough members, and they could replace him with a different postmaster general,” Schakowsky said Tuesday. “I think he clearly has demonstrated over and over again that he is not in favor of a well running United States Postal Service and I think he has done a pretty darn good job at undermining the Postal Service.”
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June 29, 2021 at 04:57PM