slowed post office service amid election

United States citizens will vote by mail this year in record numbers. This, in conjunction with the new U.S. Postal Service leadership, is expected to slow the mail system as a whole. Beyond affecting the presidential election this November, it can impact everyday life for Americans in many other ways.

How The Slow Down Goes Beyond Elections

The Postal Service processes and delivers 472.1 million mail pieces each day. While mail is no longer our primary mode of communication, people depend on the postal service for essentials, such as social security, medicine, or their small business needs. Here is a look at the programs and businesses depending on the postal service.

  1. Medications: Brick-and-mortar pharmacies are the most popular way Americans refill prescriptions, but the number of people using mail-order services is rising amid the pandemic. Pharmaceutical analyst Gregg Gilbert estimates that the number of mail-order prescriptions grew by 21% in the month of March.
  2. Small Business Owners: According to a report by the USPS Office of the Investigator General, about 70% of businesses with less than 10 workers use the post office at least once every six months. Over half, 56% say they use USPS most often to ship and spend an average of $359 per month. Etsy’s chief executive Josh Silverman wrote that 91% of its sellers rely on USPS to ship their products to their customers.
  3. E-Commerce: Since the start of quarantine, online shopping has surged. From April to June, the post office saw a 50% surge in package volume, a 708 million package increase. As Americans continue to limit their times in stores, it is expected that this trend will continue.
  4. Social Security: Starting in March of 2013, the Social Security Administration phased out mailing paper checks except for rare exceptions. The agency currently pays about 98% of Social Security and Supplemental Security Income each month electronically each month. While most recipients get their benefits either through direct deposit or by Direct Express debit card, it still does mail nearly 850,000 paper checks each month. Furthermore, the agency annually mails roughly 15 million paper statements to those age 60 and older who do not receive benefits and do not have an online account.
  5. Rural Areas: Companies like FedEx and UPS often don’t deliver to remote rural areas. In places deep in Kansas or in the mountains of Colorado, it is simply not profitable for businesses like FedEx and UPS to set up shop. For these locations, they turn to the Post Office for the final leg of the delivery. This means that without the USPS rural areas will be unable to receive packages.
  6. Bill Payment: While many argue that the USPS is becoming obsolete in the wake of digital advances, 18 percent of Americans still pay their bills by mail. Additionally, an estimated 14.5 million people in rural areas lack access to internet service. For these Americans, the mail is a crucial part of their financial process.

For now, however, there does not appear to be a systemic degradation in service. There is no widespread failure, but it is clear that delivery delays are occurring — but the cause of the delays remains unclear.