NH businesses hit by USPS slowdown; pols push for solutions

September 20, 2020

The U.S. Postal Service's well-publicized delivery problems of the past few months have severely handicapped New Hampshire businesses, especially those in rural areas, as they try to rebound from the pandemic's crippling economic effects.

Electronic Imaging Materials, a specialty-label manufacturing company in Keene, relies on the Postal Service to receive materials and ship its products domestically and internationally.

Recently, one shipment took eight days to arrive from Brattleboro, Vermont - approximately 20 miles away.

"It was supposed to be a one-day service," said Alex Henkel, president of the family-owned business with 39 employees. He said he has seen significant Postal Service delays since July, the worst in the company’s 33-year history.

To test distribution, EIM sends sample labels via priority mail to companies in all U.S. states and territories and 115 countries. The company sells labels for industrial, laboratory, warehousing and asset tracking needs.

"We’ve had several shipments that have gone completely missing. Obviously that is a real problem because people are waiting on what they need to arrive," he said.

Last week, a federal judge in Washington granted a request by 14 states to temporarily block the operational changes blamed for the slowdown, according to the Washington Post. The scope and duration of the injunction were not immediately clear.

The complaint alleges President Donald Trump and Postmaster General Louis DeJoy are "involved in a politically motivated attack on the efficiency of the Postal Service" that could disrupt the 2020 election.

Lee Moak, election mail committee chair of the Postal Service’s board of governors, told Reuters that any suggestion of a politically motivated attack on efficiency is "completely and utterly without merit."

Joe Cortese, owner of NobleSpirit in Pittsfield, uses the Postal Service to ship stamps, coins and other collectibles. The company mails about 55,000 packages a year - about 25% though United Parcel Service and 75% through the Postal Service.

"Our large portion of our business is international, and UPS and FedEx simply don’t service international leads in the same way USPS does," he said.

He said delivery times for some shipments increased from three or four days to three or four weeks.

"The day after DeJoy came into office it was just like you walked into a room and someone turned off a light switch; it was the next day," Cortese said.

On Friday, U.S. Reps. Annie Kuster and Chris Pappas toured the U.S. Postal Service’s Logistics and Distribution Center in Nashua.

Pappas said the pandemic has shown how critical the Postal Service is for small business commerce, delivery of prescription medications and casting a ballot.

"We have to give them the support they need and make sure that there are absolutely no politically motivated attempts to slow down the mail or undermine the service our families, veterans, small businesses, and voters rely on every day," he said in a statement.

Two weeks ago, U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen visited the U.S. Postal Service’s Processing and Distribution Facility in Manchester.

"The Postal Service and its dedicated workforce play an integral role in our communities, providing an essential service to Granite Staters who have relied more and more on mail amid this pandemic to receive their prescription medications, conduct business, and so much more. Yet despite the tremendous need for USPS’ services, the Trump administration continues its harmful, partisan attacks on the agency," Shaheen said in a statement.

Cortese said the Postal Service allows entrepreneurs and businesses in small cities and towns to access e-commerce on a global scale.

"Think about how much money is frozen out of the economy when that economic machine stops moving because somebody unplugged a sorting machine somewhere," Cortese said.

In response to the slowdown, EIM has changed how it handles many of its shipments, Henkel said.

"For the next few months, we are steering things away from the Postal Service," he said. "Unfortunately, it means for some of these shipments customers are going to have to wait longer to receive what they need."

USPS is the most cost-effective way to ship to the West Coast, he said, which means increased costs.

"We also rely on priority mail as the shipment method of choice to places like Alaska, Hawaii and island territories because often that is the most efficient way to get things in the customer’s hands," Henkel said.

The company is now providing labels for COVID-19 testing and vaccine research.

"We very much look forward to a future where the Postal Service has received the support they need to address their current operational issues," he said. "In the meantime, we wanted to make sure we’re providing our customers with the best service that we could."

Cortese hopes efforts are made to alleviate the slowdown.

"There is still a tremendous amount of perceived anxiety by our customers wanting to know if they will get their package on time," he said.

By:  Jonathan Phelps
Source: Union Leader