After not getting any mail delivered to her home on Lovett Drive in Spotsylvania County for more than a week, Minda Roney decided to go to the downtown Fredericksburg post office to get it herself.
She quickly found out she wasn’t the only one in the 22407 ZIP code who wasn’t getting mail. About 30 other customers were there on Aug. 24 to try to find out what was going on, she said.
“I ... waited about 40 minutes and really got no explanation,” Roney said this week. “They gave me a little bit of mail that day, but wouldn’t say when service would resume or why it was interrupted.”
Roney said a postal worker last Friday eventually stepped out to address the crowd waiting to be helped by one postal employee who was struggling at the service desk.
“All she said was, ‘We’re short staffed,’ ” said Roney. “I’ve never seen anything this bad, honestly.”
Attempts to reach the postmaster or a spokesperson at the downtown post office were unsuccessful, but a national spokeswoman for the agency provided a response, which sounded similar to the one given by the federal agency over a year ago in response to delays in mail delivery at the Falmouth post office.
In August of last year, the post office at 16 Litchfield Blvd. in southern Stafford County was left shorthanded, with many of its mail handlers and delivery drivers either on paid leave or recovering at home from the coronavirus, which was overwhelming local businesses and government services across the region and across the country.
Freda Sauter, a spokeswoman for the agency, wrote in an email to The Free Lance–Star that the COVID-19 pandemic occasionally causes “some challenges with employee availability.”
“We have taken specific actions to continue service to our valued customers, which includes hiring additional personnel,” she added.
Sauter said the postal service expects to hire more than 40,000 employees for the peak season next week and about 100,000 employees total will be added to the postal service by January.
“This number covers normal attrition and our peak holiday season,” wrote Sauter. “This effort is one part of our Delivering for America Plan, through which the postal service is investing $40 billion over 10 years in infrastructure and our employees.”
Fredericksburg-area Congressman Rob Wittman said he has heard from many of those served by the Fredericksburg post office whose mail is not being delivered in a timely manner. Wittman said he was also told by post office officials they are struggling with staffing issues that impact deliveries to residential customers.
“I have previously written to the postmaster general and spoken with post office leadership in Richmond to raise these concerns and seek their resolution,” wrote Wittman in an email.
Sandy Pruchnic was one of the fortunate residents on Lovett Drive who recently received a package at her home, but said no first class mail came with her delivery. She said the U.S. Postal Services’ plan to hire more employees might help some, but she still wonders what changed over a week ago that brought a sudden halt to mail delivery altogether in her neighborhood.
“Did everyone get COVID? Did they lose the entire 22407 ZIP code of deliverers? Did they all retire at the same time?” Pruchnic asked.
Residents expressed concerns about lost or missing bills, checks and medications.
Ron Singleton, who has lived in the same home on Lovett Drive since 1987, calls the mail delivery situation one of the worst experiences he’s ever had with the U.S. Postal Service. On Thursday, Singleton said he finally received two advertising flyers and a package of face masks he knew through a tracking service had been sitting in the post office for several days.
“Our commerce, our entire civilization depends on the use of the U.S. mail service,” said Singleton. “We rely on it. It’s not an option.”
James Scott Baron: