The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) has been moving mail across the country for decades now, providing near-constant service. It's hardly a foolproof system, though. Residents throughout the U.S. have been complaining about delivery delays over the past few months, as the USPS has been battling financial challenges and staffing shortages exacerbated by the pandemic. The postal agency has also had to suspend certain mail services for related reasons. But COVID is not the only issue affecting the USPS right now, and now a major problem has affected service in multiple states. Read on to find out more about recent suspensions from the USPS.
READ THIS NEXT: USPS Is Making This Major Delivery Change, Starting Oct. 2.
The USPS is required to provide regular service to Americans.
Amid talk of paring down the USPS service or halting certain operations to combat budget issues, President Joe Biden signed the Postal Service Reform Act into law in April 2022 to help the agency and enforce its requirement in maintaining regular service for Americans. The bill reiterates that the USPS must continue delivering mail six days a week across the entire country.
"The Postal Service Reform Act is the biggest bipartisan accomplishment this Congress and will strengthen USPS for the years to come. All Americans, whether they live in rural communities or big cities, rely on the Postal Service, so we all want this vital institution to continue delivering for the public," Kentucky Congressman James Comer said in a statement earlier this year. "The bipartisan Postal Service Reform Act, coupled with Postmaster General [Louis DeJoy's] reform plan, modernizes USPS to ensure it operates like a 21st century business that provides reliable service to the American people."
But there are exceptions.
Under the Postal Service Reform Act, there are rare exceptions to the Postal Service's requirement for regular service. This includes natural disasters, which can inhibit the agency's operations. The USPS is allowed to suspend certain services as a result of disruptions caused by weather-related and other natural disasters. Pat Mendonca, a former senior director for the office of postmaster general, told The Atlantic in 2019 that the USPS has 285 emergency-management teams devoted to crisis control across the U.S. that are trained in the "people, property, product" framework.
According to Mendonca, this means that after a weather related service outage, the agency ensures that its employees are safe, evaluates infrastructure such as the roads mail carriers drive on, and then decides when and how to reopen. But the USPS has made it clear that it doesn't like to close—and if it has to, it tries not to stay closed for long. "It's our drive to get back out on the street with our carriers because that's our legislative responsibility," Mike Swigart, the director of national preparedness at USPS, told the magazine.
Several post offices have just been closed because of the same natural disaster.
The USPS strives to update residential customers about any service disruptions, with information about "disruptions due to weather-related and other natural disasters or events" on its Service Alerts page. Currently, several areas have been affected by a similar issue. On Sept. 6, the agency reported that the post office in Gazelle, California, has been temporarily closed due to a wildfire. Less than a week later, the USPS has also now shut down service at more California post offices because of the state's ongoing Mosquito Fire: Foresthill, Georgetown, and Greenwood.
More post office closures could hit the state soon as the wildfire rages on. According to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE), the Mosquito Fire has been active for five days and is only 10 percent contained as of Sept. 12. "The Mosquito Fire continues to progress primarily to the north and east. Despite cooler temperatures, the historically dry fuel moisture in the vegetation continues driving the fire's growth," CAL FIRE explained.
Other states have had to close post offices due to recent wildfires.
California is not the only state where the Postal Service has recently closed post offices because of wildfires. On Sept. 6, the agency temporarily shuttered the post office in Imnaha, Oregon, because of the Double Creek fire, and then a few days later, both the Oakridge and Westfir post offices in this state were also closed for the same reason. More recently, on Sept. 10, the USPS had to temporarily stop operations at the post office in Baring, Washington, because of the Bolt Creek fire.
This is also not the first time the USPS has had to shutter post offices because of natural disasters this year. Just last month, several post offices in Northern California were temporarily closed because of the the McKinney Fire, a massive wildfire that broke out in the Klamath National Forest near the border of California and Oregon on July 29. Before that, the Postal Service had to halt operations at its its Processing and Distribution Center in St. Louis, Missouri, and close at least one post office in the city due to historic flooding.