(Reuters) - A U.S. Postal Service internal watchdog is looking into service disruptions that have slowed mail delivery ahead of a presidential election that could see up to half of U.S. voters casting ballots by mail.
The new Postmaster General, Louis DeJoy, has ordered changes in mail delivery policies since taking the reins at the agency in June, which has fueled concerns over the Postal Service’s ability to handle the ballots.
Here is a summary of the changes:
* Starting in July, delivery drivers have had to leave at scheduled times even if their trucks are not fully loaded with mail, according to internal Postal Service documents and officers at postal unions. Previously, trucks often waited for mail sorting facilities to finish processing and loading the day’s mail before carting it to branches for delivery by letter carriers.
* The Postal Service has ordered restrictions on overtime hours for clerks and carriers, part of a bid to cut costs at the financially-troubled service, which reported a net loss of $2.2 billion in the last quarter.
* The agency has ordered letter carriers at hundreds of post offices to head out on their routes immediately in the morning, carrying only packages and letters that were sorted the night before, according to an internal memo seen by Reuters. In some post offices, mail carriers have said the unsorted mail waits an extra day to be delivered. In others, carriers have said they double back to pick up a second batch later in the day.
* Some smaller post offices have been ordered to close at lunchtime to keep labor costs down, according to a memo seen by Reuters.
* Postal workers have reported that the agency is removing some mail sorting machines from facilities across the country. White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows on Monday said that initiative began under DeJoy’s predecessor. Postal officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
* Both Democratic and Republican members of Congress have voiced concerns over reports that curbside mailboxes have abruptly been removed in some states. U.S. Senator Jon Tester of Montana on Friday said the Postal Service had stopped removing mailboxes in his state.
A Reuters photographer over the weekend spotted a large pile of mailboxes in a storage facility in Hartford, Wisconsin, outside Milwaukee. People who lived nearby said the pile had grown noticeably larger in recent weeks.
Reporting by Jason Lange in Washington; Editing by Scott Malone and Rosalba O’Brien
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