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What's Holding Up The Mail In Charlottesville?

Randi B. Hagi

Some Charlottesville residents and businesses have been kept waiting on their mail for weeks at a time. 

[Sound of traffic]

Last Wednesday afternoon, a steady stream of cars traded spots in the parking lot outside the post office on Seminole Trail in Charlottesville. Some were there for the usual reasons -- sending packages, checking their P.O. boxes. Others went to pick up their mail, because it hadn't been delivered to their houses or businesses for days. But these delays appear to be hitting some worse than others.

MICHAEL MOHAJERI: There have been some delays, but it's actually gotten a little bit better.

Michael Mohajeri runs an Ebay-based business in Charlottesville, so he ships and receives packages all the time. He said that, during the winter, packages might take twice as long as they should to arrive.

MOHAJERI: … even into, like, spring it wasn't great. But over the summer it got a little bit better …  When they changed the postmaster general, I noticed a difference in how much slower things were getting here. Only in recent months has it kind of gotten back to normal again.

Other Charlottesville residents say they're still having problems. Sharon Moore stopped by the post office before her hospice care shift that day.

Credit Randi B. Hagi
Sharon Moore has noticed delays even with local mail.

SHARON MOORE: It all depends on what it is, especially packages. That -- yeah. I've had a lot of delays getting them.

REPORTER: How late have some of the packages been?

MOORE: A month or two … Some of them have to come through customs, and I get that. But some of them are right local, you know? It's like, come on, now.

Several people at the post office that day declined an interview, but were willing to chat about their experiences. One woman came in to ask for her business's mail, and said other businesses along her street were also missing theirs. Two people blamed Postmaster General Louis DeJoy. Another said they haven't had any problems out in Fluvanna County. And several expressed support for the people behind the counter and at the wheel.

ROSHELL HILL: Probably overworked, underpaid, and understaffed.

Credit Randi B. Hagi
Roshell Hill works at Rent-a-Center in Charlottesville, and said they still haven't received certified letters they ordered a month and a half ago. She said she doesn't blame the postal workers.

Roshell Hill works at Rent-a-Center in Charlottesville, and said they still haven't received certified letters they ordered a month and a half ago. Normally they would have arrived in two weeks.

HILL: People are tired and they're not able to get to everything because they are understaffed. I don't blame the postal workers at all … I feel bad for them because they probably do get 'tude from people because of the wait, because sometimes the line in here is out the door, back there, wrapped around, and they're still just polite and their demeanor doesn't change.

Last month, Senator Mark Warner visited Charlottesville in response to complaints about the mail delays. As CBS19 reported, Warner said then that the post office was 14 mail carriers short of the 85 they needed to be fully staffed. On Thursday, he said his office is still getting complaints about this.

MARK WARNER: I'm contacting the local postmaster who'd only been in about … a month, to see what the explanation is, and I'm going to bring this all the way up the chain to the Postmaster General at the national level if we don't see improvement. I know it's challenging to recruit workers in the Charlottesville area, but we've got to go that extra mile.

Credit Randi B. Hagi
A banner outside the Seminole Trail office directs prospective employees to the USPS website. As of Monday (Sept. 27), that site listed four carrier positions.

A banner outside the Seminole Trail office directs prospective employees to the USPS website. As of Monday, there were four mail carrier positions posted for the Charlottesville office.

WARNER: It is not fair to people who rely on the postal service to get their bills paid, to get their medicines, to get key packages, to have the kind of delays that are taking place. And it's not a question of funding that's available. We have provided sufficient funding from the federal government, they just have to operate their system better there. And if the local management can't get it done, we're going to have to replace that management.

A regional representative for USPS said in an email that Charlottesville has an acting postmaster until the position is filled and, [quote] "This has been an extraordinary year of unprecedented challenges given the COVID-19 pandemic and we continue to experience challenges with employee availability."

In the meantime, many postal customers will just have to be patient.

Randi B. Hagi first joined the WMRA team in 2019 as a freelance reporter. Her writing and photography have been featured in The Harrisonburg Citizen, where she previously served as the assistant editor; as well as The Mennonite; Mennonite World Review; and Eastern Mennonite University's Crossroads magazine.