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Virginia lawmakers want postmaster general to deliver on promises

U.S. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy may have bought time with an apology to a bipartisan Virginia congressional delegation that is irate over delays in mail deliveries — including essential medications — to people in the Richmond area.

But U.S. Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, both Virginia Democrats, and Rep. Rob Wittman, R-1st, and Rep. Jennifer McClellan, D-4th, say they will not relax scrutiny of the Postal Service and its regional mail distribution center in Richmond.

“He owned up to responsibility and he apologized,” Kaine said Tuesday in a media briefing that led with details of the joint meeting with the postmaster general on Monday.

In a separate Zoom meeting with reporters on Tuesday, Warner said it is unfortunate that the Postal Service chose to roll out its Delivery for America project in Richmond, which already was struggling with mail delivery.

The good news is that “the postmaster general agreed that the rollout in Richmond was a disaster,” Warner said. “It was a mess, and it needs to be corrected.”

The senators and congressional representatives said in a joint statement on Monday that they will not relax efforts to improve postal service in the Richmond area. A pattern of late deliveries began last summer after a reorganization that increased pressure on the regional distribution center in Sandston in eastern Henrico County.

“It was encouraging to hear” the postmaster general “accept responsibility for the problems, share data about recent improvement, and pledge to make the Richmond Distribution Center a top-notch performer in necessary postal reforms,” they said in the statement.

“But it’s clear that USPS has a long way to go in regaining the trust of Virginians,” they added. “This meeting is just the beginning, and we will continue to press for increased transparency, greater engagement with the public, and a higher standard of service for the communities it serves.”

The problems began last July after a reorganization that made the center in Sandston the hub for mail distribution for a wide swath of Virginia from Hampton Roads to Charlottesville and from Fredericksburg to the North Carolina line.

“Richmond was chosen as a test case to show how great the reforms would be,” Kaine said in his media briefing. “It was pretty much a disaster.”

He said DeJoy acknowledged that the Postal Service had “completely botched the implementation” of the reorganization and reforms.

Kaine said the delegation also emphasized its concern about the difficulty in communicating with the Postal Service in response to constituent complaints and engage in finding solutions.

USPS initially refused to attend a town hall or to let elected officials tour the distribution center. It finally relented with a tour last month that included Wittman, McClellan and Rep. Bobby Scott, D-3rd. Kaine said he and Warner were unable to attend because of a pending vote on the federal budget.

Kaine said that on Monday DeJoy shared information showing that mail delivery from the center had improved in the past month and that a similar reorganization in Charlotte, N.C., had gone more smoothly.

“It was a very productive meeting,” Kaine said.

However, it won’t be the last meeting. Kaine and Warner said the delegation intends to meet with DeJoy every 60 days to monitor the Postal Service’s progress in addressing their concerns.

Warner said the Virginia lawmakers impressed upon DeJoy that mail service in Richmond has been “just totally unacceptable.”

He added: “It’s our intention to hold his feet to the fire.”