By David Shepardson
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The top two Democrats in Congress on Thursday called on the new U.S. Postal Service head to reverse changes that they say are resulting in delayed mail during a national health crisis that has made Americans more reliant on deliveries.
In a letter, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer criticized the operational changes put in place by Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, a supporter of President Donald Trump, who took over the agency in June.
"We believe these changes, made during the middle of a once-in-a-century pandemic, now threaten the timely delivery of mail—including medicines for seniors, paychecks for workers, and absentee ballots for voters—that is essential to millions of Americans," the Democrats wrote, adding "enacting these policies as cost-cutting or efficiency measures as the COVID-19 public health emergency continues is counterproductive and unacceptable."
According to their letter, the changes included "reductions of overtime availability, restrictions on extra mail transportation trips, testing of new mail sorting and delivery policies at hundreds of Post Offices."
A Postal Service spokesman did not comment on the new letter but said earlier the agency aims to "increase operational efficiency by re-emphasizing existing plans that have been designed to provide prompt and reliable service within current service standards."
Voting my mail is expected to increase dramatically this fall due to November presidential elections amid the coronavirus pandemic. Trump has claimed without evidence that absentee voting leads to rampant fraud.
The Postal Service has faced financial woes with the rise of email and social media, and a measure passed in 2006 requiring it to prefund 75 years of retiree health benefits over the span of 10 years at a cost of more than $100 billion.
The agency's board of governors is set to meet Friday when it reports its third quarter financial results.
Separately, the top Senate Democrat the committee overseeing the Post Office, Gary Peters, said Thursday was launching an investigation into reported delivery delays, while senior House Democrats sent DeJoy a new letter asking additional questions.
(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Aurora Ellis)