Braille Monitor                  November 2021

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You’ve Got Mail, but it May be Late

by Kyle Walls

Kyle WallsFrom the Editor: Kyle Walls is one of the most talented writers it is ever been my pleasure to edit. He works on behalf of our Policy and Advocacy team, and whether it is good news or bad news, Kyle can package it in a way that is interesting and understandable. Here is what he has to say about recent changes at the United States Postal Service:

“Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.”

You may read these words and think of them as the motto of the United States Postal Service (USPS). The truth is they are not. The USPS has no official motto, and these words, though carved in stone over the entrance to the New York City Post Office on 8th Avenue, are actually from the writings of ancient Greek historian Herodotus as he described the Persian system of mounted couriers during the wars between the Greeks and Persians in the fifth century B.C. The passage is frequently used to describe the USPS and its tireless delivery of the mail. Unfortunately, the USPS may have to remove “swift” from the above inscription due to a new policy that started in October. Below we answer a few basic questions about what will (or won’t) be in your mailbox in the coming months.

What is happening to my mail?

On October 1, 2021, the Postal Service moved forward with its new “service standards” which were outlined in March of 2021. In plain English, the “service standard” is the amount of time it takes for any given piece of mail to be delivered anywhere in the country. The USPS formerly defined this standard as three days, but the new standard is anywhere between two and five days. The good news is that most of the mail processed, approximately 70 percent, is still projected to be delivered within three days.

Why is this happening?

The short answer: because we simply don’t use the USPS as much as we used to. The Postal Service is the rare example of a federal agency that only receives taxpayer funding in extreme or emergency circumstances, which means that it is almost exclusively funded through the sale of postal products (i.e. stamps, boxes, shipping costs, etc.). Since we have become a more electronically connected society, we don’t send things via USPS nearly as much as we used to, which has caused a significant decrease in funding for the service. To offset that decrease, the current postmaster general and the bipartisan USPS board of governors voted to implement a ten-year plan that will use alternative modes of transportation for the mail, which ultimately results in slower service.

How will this affect me?

Your time to respond to certain items, like mail from the Social Security Administration, likely just became a little shorter. For example, before October 1, if you received a piece of mail that required a response within ten days of the postmark, you probably received it two to three days after the postmark, which means you had at least seven days to respond. However, if you received that same piece of mail after October 1, there’s a chance it didn’t get to you until four to five days after it was postmarked, meaning you now only have about five days to respond. It may not seem like much, but if you only check or read your mail once a week, it could be the difference between making or missing your chance to reply to an important item.

What can I do about this change?

Be diligent about checking and reading your mail more frequently. This will ensure that you don’t miss anything important. Additionally, you can educate others about this change so that your family and friends don’t miss anything important either.

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