Several Twin Cities metro post offices are undergoing a review by a federal inspection agency, prompted by reports of "poor delivery performance" and congressional requests.
Postal facilities involved in the audits by the United States Postal Service Office of Inspector General are branch offices in Apple Valley and Eagan, a carrier annex in New Brighton and the processing and distribution center in St. Paul. Reports from the audits should be released in January, said agency spokeswoman Allyson Conroy.
The list of facilities includes some that have been repeatedly highlighted by U.S. Rep. Angie Craig, who has spoken out about "persistent mail delays" in the south metro and sent letters to the Postal Service. She recently sent another memo to U.S. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, requesting details about how USPS is planning to handle the busy holiday mail season.
"Unfortunately, I think the issues are rising again," Craig said this month in an interview.
Also of concern to Craig: reports from local postal workers about poor working conditions and growing workloads. It's an issue that's also received attention from U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar and U.S. Sen. Tina Smith, who recently sent a letter to DeJoy asking about reports that surging demands from Amazon are stretching rural post offices in Minnesota and across the country beyond their capacity — and causing delays for mail from other senders.
Craig said she received 164 complaints about mail delivery in Lakeville in November, along with 100 from Shakopee and 76 from Prior Lake. Rosemount, Farmington, Eagan and Apple Valley residents have also voiced concerns.
The complaints are mostly related to people not getting their mail delivered every day; many are only receiving it every three days, five days or more, she said. Others have reported lost mail.
Staffing shortages are a problem — she's heard of workers putting in 10- to 12-hour days and not getting a day off for almost two weeks — but it's bigger than that, Craig said.
"USPS seems to be prioritizing Amazon's deliveries over Americans' First-Class Mail," she said.
Asked about Craig's concerns, USPS spokesman Desai Abdul-Razzaaq said the agency was "preparing for another successful holiday season" like last year.
"We've planned for the holiday season all year. We have accelerated key processing, logistics and delivery investments to meet customers' evolving mail and package needs," he said in a statement.
In 2022, the USPS processed almost 12 billion pieces of mail and, on average, it took 2.5 days for each item's delivery. Things have improved in 2023, with 98% of mail delivered within three days, he said.
Abdul-Razzaaq didn't comment on whether USPS prioritizes Amazon packages over other mail. But Amazon spokesperson Steve Kelly said the company works with USPS to make sure it's not overloaded with packages. Kelly noted that USPS has stated in other publications that it does not prioritize Amazon packages.
"More than an inconvenience"
This isn't the first time Craig has raised the issue of slow or inconsistent mail delivery in the Second Congressional District, which stretches across the south metro and to communities farther south.
In September, Craig asked the USPS to build a new post office to serve Lakeville and Farmington "to address the numerous capacity, storage and delivery issues" in both communities. USPS responded by saying the current facilities met their needs.
She visited Prior Lake and Eagan post offices in July and asked for residents' feedback on mail delivery before those visits, citing an "extraordinary number of complaints" from the south metro.
Last December, she wrote to DeJoy seeking answers for mail delays and disruptions in Mendota Heights, Apple Valley and Lakeville.
Several south metro mayors said they're familiar with residents' mail delivery issues, though the extent of the issues varies.
Shakopee Mayor Matt Lehman said he's heard complaints over the past six months. Residents say they aren't getting daily mail, and he's heard of packages being delivered to the wrong address.
"It's kind of hit or miss. It's good for a while, then it slacks off," he said.
Apple Valley Mayor Clint Hooppaw, has heard a surge of complaints in the past few weeks, though he said the problem has a longer history.
"It's been at least a year that we've had what I call waves of issues," Hooppaw said.
For people reliant on the mail to get pension checks or prescriptions, he said, delays are "much more than an inconvenience, and that has me concerned."
Lakeville Mayor Luke Hellier said negative comments have dropped off lately, which he attributes to the holiday season having not yet ramped up and no recent elections relying on mail-in ballots, unlike last year.
He said the local post office is small for a city of Lakeville's size — and its growing population. It doesn't have a loading dock, and Hellier said last holiday season packages were stacked outside, snow falling on top.
Across the south metro, residents report a wide range of experiences with mail delivery. Many said it was fine or improved, and appreciated their mail carrier.
Others are frustrated. In a social media post, Shakopee resident Mary Breeggemann said she doesn't receive mail for "days on end," though Amazon packages are delivered on time, while Farmington resident Kyle Hansen said he doesn't get his mail until 9 p.m. Nicole Peaslee of Farmington said delivery delays are "ridiculous."
"They seem to only deliver bills and even then it is not in a timely manner," she wrote.
A postal worker in Shakopee, who asked not to be identified to protect their job, described being "absolutely overwhelmed" by the work. At 3:41 p.m., the postal worker hadn't started their regular route because of the many packages — from Amazon and UPS — that needed to be delivered first.
"If I don't work my day off, I come back the next day ... and I'm all backed up," the worker said, adding that they work six days a week. "Some mail just went out today that's been sitting for five days."
Nobody wants to do the job because of the workload, and many new hires quit when they learn they have to work weekends, the worker said.
Craig said she's heard morale is already so low among letter carriers that being asked to do more — including stopping regular mail delivery to focus on packages each day — has left many fed up and burned out.
She wants to know what steps USPS has taken to prepare for the coming holiday weeks — traditionally the busiest time of year — what staffing levels are needed, and where they stand currently, and what USPS is doing to retain its workers.
"What can we do that will actually fix the issues instead of just sort of kicking the can down the road?" she asked.