BELMAR/LAKE COMO, NJ — For the past several weeks, many Belmar and Lake Como residents have opened their mailboxes only to find it has remained empty for up to several days at a time.

The situation has prompted Rep. Chris Smith (R-4th District) to ask for a meeting with U.S. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy after a regional manager told the congressman that personnel shortages — caused by a variety of factors — are responsible for the delay in mail service.

“I recognize that staff at the post office is under greater strain due to COVID-19 quarantining, summer vacations, increased parcels and a lack of applicants for temporary work,” said Smith, whose staff received a briefing from Gretta Ross-Rawlins, acting manager of the U.S. Postal Services’ South Jersey District Office.

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“However, it is troubling to learn that the problem may be so widespread,” he said in a July 24 letter to DeJoy. “Additionally, I cannot ignore the reports I have received about a servicewide change in delivery policy and/or overtime availability, and the impact that each may be having on consumers not receiving their first-class mail — checks, bills, medicines — on a daily basis.

Smith said constituents from throughout his district, including Belmar and Lake Como, have expressed their “dismay and grave concerns” in detailing their mail delivery problems — from receiving mail on a sporadic basis or getting no mail for up to four days to just receiving packages.

He said he has also been contact by people who live or work in Eatontown, Fair Haven, Lakewood, Little Silver, Neptune, Ocean, Red Bank, Tinton Falls and Wall. 

In addition, Smith said in the letter he has received phone calls from several letter carriers, advising him that because of new instructions from their supervisors and “headquarters,” they have been unable to complete their mail delivery routes and instead must prioritize parcels over regular first-class mail. As a result, carriers have had to stop delivering mail for extended periods of time, he added.

Smith cites a recent Washington Post article that stated there is a concerted effort by the U.S. Postal Service to prioritize packages over marketing mail and single-piece, first-class mail. It also details, he said, a top-down limitation on overtime, despite staffing shortages, as well as a ban on extra trips to ensure that all deliveries are made.

“This report appears to collaborate the first-hand accounts which I have heard from constituents and numerous postal employees,” Smith said. “If true, the full implementation of these measures promises to be even more disruptive.””

Pointing out that throughout his tenure in Congress he has opposed privatization of the USPS, Smith said he has supported proposals to provide it with a minimum of $25 billion in emergency funding "to ensure (it) can maintain the expected level of services, despite the strain of the pandemic and other challenges.”

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