BAR HARBOR — Back in pre-COVID times, it took two or three days for a piece of mail to reach its destination using the United States Postal Service when sent via its higher-tier “Priority Mail” service. For first-class, in-county mail, one or two days would do.
Those same types of mail are now taking much longer in many instances to reach their destinations. Locally, customers are seeing first class and other USPS mail delayed, well after the high-volume holiday season, and newspapers are included.
“In recent weeks we have received several reports of newspapers being delivered later than normal,” Kathy Cook, general manager for The Ellsworth American and Mount Desert Islander, said. “Our problem, though, is not a local one. Newspapers across the country that rely on the postal service for delivery are experiencing delays.”
Like everything everywhere, COVID-19 has impacted the USPS. Staffing shortages and the spike in online ordering during the pandemic contributed to delays well before the holiday season and the situation continues.
“Throughout the peak season, the Postal Service, along with the broader shipping sector, faced pressure on service performance across categories as it managed through a record of volume while also overcoming employee shortages due to the ongoing surge in COVID-19 cases, winter storms in the Northeast, as well as ongoing capacity challenges with airlifts and trucking for moving historic volumes of mail,” Steve Doherty, communications specialist for the USPS Atlantic Area-Northeast Region.
Staffing has been an issue throughout the pandemic, he said, but overtime for workers was “fully utilized” during the peak season. “Due to the tremendous dedication of our workforce, we’re typically able to flex our resources and move people to where the mail is. This may sometimes result in employees working in unfamiliar territory, which can result in some short-term delays.”
To subscribers experiencing delays in receiving their American or Islander papers, Cook said, “We pride ourselves in getting timely news into the hands of our readers. That is why we want our customers to know that we are working very persistently and diligently with our local and regional post office to get back to a timely delivery schedule.”