Residents on the verge of exhausting their supply of prescription medications.
Christmas gifts and cards that arrived long after the holiday.
A delayed shipment of baked goods to loyal customers that cost a Zoar bakery owner about $900 in losses.
A health insurance payment check that failed to arrive for a month, jeopardizing a retired Canton ironworker's health care coverage and delaying his colonoscopy.
These are among the reported impacts of chronically delayed mail by the U.S. Postal Service in December and January. The unprecedented delays have caused residents stress and anxiety and decimated their confidence in the federal agency.
Anna Benson of Plain Township said she's done with paying bills by mail. In some cases, her utility bills arrived days before the due dates or even on the due date. On top of that, her husband's cholesterol medication arrived last week after being ordered Dec. 12. When they finally appeared in their mailbox, he was down to his last six pills.
She said her TV Guide for Dec. 21 to Jan. 2 arrived Jan. 6. She tossed it in the recycling bin.
"I'm probably going to start paying (bills) over the phone, possibly paying them online," Benson said. "I"m going to try to use the post office as little as possible."
System under stress
The U.S. Postal Service in Cleveland cited several reasons for the delays, including handling a record amount of packages during the holiday season during a pandemic.
"Capacity challenges with airlifts and trucking for moving this historic volume of mail also led to temporary delays," the agency said in a prepared statement. "These challenges were felt by shippers across the board. We are proud of the hard work and dedication of our employees and continue to work around the clock to deliver all packages and mail entered into our system, including returns. We regret all service problems experienced by our customers and thank them for their continued support and understanding."
Postal Service spokeswoman Naddia Dhalia wrote in an email that about 17,000 postal employees nationwide have been off work due to COVID.
Tim Lolli, the chief of staff for U.S. Rep. Anthony Gonzalez, R-Rocky River, wrote in an email that the congressman is "aware of the conditions affecting mail service and is kept updated on USPS development on a regular basis. ... Our understanding is that USPS is doing the best they can to get their arms around the problem and are working to return mail service to normal operating conditions as quickly as possible."
Gonzalez's office added that the Postal Service in northern Ohio has hired more than 500 employees to work on a seasonal basis or replace someone out due to COVID. The agency has set up temporary sorting facilities in Twinsburg and Strongsville to supplement the sorting facility in Cleveland, where all Stark County mail usually goes.
U.S. Rep. Bob Gibbs, R-Lakeville, sent a letter to Postmaster General Louis DeJoy dated Wednesday asking what the U.S. Postal Service is doing to end the delays.
"For many, this delay has significantly impacted their ability to pay bills on time, receive monthly pensions, and in several instances has resulted in lowered credit scores due to late payments," he wrote. "Unfortunately, attempts by many constituents to contact the USPS regarding delayed items have not led to answers, assistance or progress."
Mary McGrath, a retiree in Lawrence Township, said she usually gets her gas bill, the first day or second day of the month. Her bill arrived Dec. 14, and payment was due Dec. 16. A postcard from her niece in Athens, which would normally take a couple of days, took two weeks to arrive, she said, adding that Christmas cards were taking two weeks to get to her.
"The person who delivers my mail is wonderful," she said. "But it's not her fault they're delivering this late mail. ... When I mailed something to Arizona, I mailed it by UPS."
Scott Dingies, a retired 65-year-old ironworker in Canton, said he mailed a check in late November to pay for health insurance coverage in January through his union to the union office in the Pittsburgh area. He said he was told the office never received it. No one ever cashed the check.
Dingies said he had to cancel his colonoscopy because he didn't want to be on the hook for $3,000 to $4,000 until the insurance situation can be worked out. He also has held off refilling the prescription for his cholesterol and acid reflux medication as it's not clear if he has coverage.
"I have no confidence in (the U.S. Postal Service) at all," Dingies said. "If I had to mail something, I would just hand deliver it."
Susan Gaiser, the owner of Biscotti by the Bunch in Zoar, said she shipped baked goods by priority two-day to three-day mail to longtime customers in New Jersey on Dec. 8. It didn't arrive until last week. She said because the package arrived after Christmas, she spent more than $900 to refund the order. On top of that, a new business credit card that was mailed Nov. 23 and didn't arrive until last week, she said.
“I’m out the money and I’m a tiny business," she said. "I'm working out of my house. I've been working 10 years doing this. It’s a big hit for me."
She said her local postmaster said there was nothing she could do.
"Why are we paying extra (for priority)?" she asked. "It’s not right, and they're not going to give you any money back and they put up their hands and shrug and say 'Sorry.'”
She said from now on, she'll use UPS instead, even though it'll cost more and reduce her profit margin and require her to drive more than 15 minutes to get to the UPS drop off in New Philadelphia.
Bonnie Glick of Massillon, a retired teacher, said her daughter mailed a Christmas gift for her from New York City on Dec. 10. It arrived last week. Her Aqua Ohio water bill that should have arrived by Dec. 20 hasn't arrived.
She said she would tell the postmaster general that "he's doing a terrible job with all the changes he's made and why does Massillon mail have to go to Cleveland to be sorted to come back to Massillon?"
Autumn Suarez of Massillon said she never received a letter that was mailed Dec. 4 by Stark County Department of Job and Family Services regarding food assistance benefits. She said the agency told her she was ineligible because she had failed to reply to the letter and set up a phone interview with an agency staffer by the Dec. 21 deadline. Suarez said her job as a golf course groundskeeper has ended because it's winter.
Sarah Hegnauer, a spokeswoman for the agency, said it could not comment on Suarez's case due to privacy guidelines. But she said agency staff does communicate often with clients by phone, email and by mail.
"We do have a set timetable of events that would take place to ensure that someone would have the help that they need," she said.
Reach Repository writer Robert Wang at (330) 580-8327 or [email protected]. Twitter: @rwangREP
This article originally appeared on The Repository: Late bills, missed checks: Residents continue to fume over postal service
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