Oregon lawmakers condemn proposed USPS changes

The national controversy over the USPS reached Eugene as local leaders held a press conference blasting the federal government for proposed changes.

Posted: Aug 21, 2020 7:37 PM

EUGENE, Ore. -- The national controversy over the US Postal Service reached Eugene on Friday as local leaders held a press conference blasting the federal government for proposed changes.

Our area's elected officials gathered in downtown Eugene to vocalize their disappointment with the way the White House and postmaster general have changed the way USPS operates. 

Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden were joined by Representative Peter DeFazio and others in the community.

RELATED: WYDEN AND MERKLEY TAKE UP THE CAUSE OF USPS, CITING DELAYED PRESCRIPTIONS AND BALLOT IMPACTS

Wyden cited concerns from constituents who say some of the cost-cutting measures like decreased overtime and eliminating sorting machines has caused their prescriptions to come late -- sometimes weeks late.

"One in 5 prescriptions is delivered exclusively by mail," said Wyden. "Physicians tell us that if patients don't get their medicine in a timely, way they're going to suffer."

A representative with the postal service said while some may experience minor delays, it is not a system wide issue.

"We have instituted some cost cutting measures and it could possibly result in delayed delivery on certain occasions but certainly not widespread," said Ernie Swanson, a spokesperson with the postal service.

Swanson said the service has lost a billion dollars in just the last fiscal year alone.

On Saturday, the House -- which is controlled by Democrats -- will vote on a $25 billion funding package as well as a bill that would prohibit changes to the postal service until after the election.

DeFazio said the moves being made by postmaster general Louis DeJoy are excuses for his own inefficiency.

"They said, 'Oh we can't afford all these different employees -- let's bring in these machines and replace all these people.' Well they brought in the machines. They displaced tens of thousands of mail handlers to make it more efficient. Now they want to take out the machines, but (DeJoy's) not going to hire mail handlers. What happens?" DeFazio asked. "The mail piles up!"

Experts said it's questionable whether Republicans in the Senate would pass the same bill.

Meanwhile, Merkley said he believes “democracy is being threatened” with the way President Donald Trump is speaking out against mail-in voting just 74 days before the election.

"(Trump) said, 'Now they need that money to make the post office work so they can deliver those millions and millions of ballots.' He’s attacking the election in November," said Merkley.

Swanson said the service has the power to handle the load the way they always have.

"We’ve been handling that kind of mail now for several years and we have a close working relationship with the secretary of state and we go over any issues so we can provide the best of service for not only ballot mail but election mail," he said.

DeJoy said ballot delivery is the number one priority between now and Election Day.

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