Some people in Chicago still not getting their mail

As Congress struggles to figure out a way to fix the United States Postal Service and get it back to operating in a profitable fashion, sporadic problems continue to dog delivery services in some areas. The city of Chicago is one location with chronic delivery problems, with some residents complaining that they haven’t seen a mail delivery person in weeks and others being told that they would need to travel to their local Post Office to pick up their own mail. Despite elected officials and community leaders promising to look into the matter, those issues continued to be reported this week in the Windy City and residents are running out of patience. (CBS Chicago)

CBS 2’s Tara Molina started investigating the issues more than six months ago and the USPS has yet to address them fully. On Wednesday night, Molina dug into a month-long delay reported to us in the South Shore neighborhood.

Ruth Yarborough depends on a check she gets in the mail at the beginning of every month. Three weeks into February, that is not the only thing she is missing – and she’s not the only one.

Leaving the house, especially with the snow on the ground, isn’t as easy as it used to be for Ruth Yarborough who uses a walker. Like most of her neighbors, Yarborough has been in called her neighborhood in South Shore home since the 1960s.

I think many of us who have been using direct deposit payment systems for quite a while take such things for granted, but Ruth Yarborough is a reminder that there are still people out there who rely on the Post Office for the delivery of paper checks that have to be taken to the bank. Similarly, those who pay their bills by sending in personal checks need someone to come pick them up. For plenty of people, the Post Office is something you just take for granted until it suddenly stops working.

So what went so wrong in Chicago? The local offices where most of the delivery failures are cropping up continue to insist that they are understaffed. That may be true, but they’ve known about this for quite a while now. The pandemic may have delayed some of the entry exams, but it’s difficult to believe that they haven’t been able to find a way to address that situation by now. CBS News asked about the lack of deliveries from the Charles A. Hayes Post Office where Ruth Yarborough gets her mail. This was the response they received.

“We apologize for the disruption in service at the Post Office Station located at 7436 S. Exchange. We have experienced staff shortages at this location and are currently using available resources to match the workload created by the impacts of the ongoing Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. This includes bringing in extra resources at this location. We have also been challenged by the recent accumulation of snow in our region and ask customers to keep the approaches to their mailboxes clear of ice and snow. We appreciate the patience of our customers and the efforts of employees as conditions change on a day-to-day basis.”

So they’re still blaming the pandemic. Ms. Yarborough wasn’t buying that story, asking how long she and her neighbors are supposed to wait. When she got a ride down to the Post Office to ask for her mail in person, she was told there was no way she could be helped.

Others see more systemic problems that have been plaguing the entire city for the past year as part of the problem. Just this week, the Inspector General’s Office for Chicago issued a blistering report that faulted just about everyone for the city’s failed response to the protests and riots that erupted in the wake of George Floyd’s death. They primarily focused on the Chicago Police Department and City Hall, saying that neither had a plan in place to deal with widespread unrest and violence. As the riots unfolded, there was no overarching strategy to deal with them and different precincts were employing conflicting tactics while some failed to respond to clear incidents of arson and looting.

But all of that unrest wasn’t only impacting the police. Most all services were disrupted, including mail delivery. Postal workers have a closely monitored routine in place to ensure the smooth delivery of the mail, but it operates on the assumption that the streets will be open and safe for postal workers to travel on. When the rule of law breaks down, postal delivery is obviously going to be significantly impacted.

But the riots have been largely over for a couple of months now. There are still sporadic protests and the crime rate is definitely up, but the massive arson and looting has thankfully subsided for the most part. Shouldn’t the delivery of the mail be returned to something approaching normalcy by now?