The devastating spread of COVID-19 is taking a toll on one of New York City’s most essential services: mail delivery. From the north Bronx to Greenwich Village to Bushwick, New York residents say it’s been days, if not weeks, since they last received their parcels.
Elahd Bar-Shair, a 34-year-old Riverdale resident, called the Kingsbridge post office on Monday after several days without mail, only to be told that all deliveries had been suspended indefinitely due to the novel coronavirus.
“It’s a little jarring to have the mail just stop,” Bar-Shair told Gothamist. He said that he and his wife were waiting on baby formula for his newborn and a sick leave check that can only be delivered by mail. “It’s one of those services you’d think would have a contingency plan.”
As thousands of workers nationwide have entered quarantine to stop the spread of the virus, the U.S. Postal Service has acknowledged that there are severe staffing shortages in certain zip codes throughout the city. But residents are on their own in figuring out if they live in one of those neighborhoods — the USPS website does not list any service disruptions related to the virus.
NYC: My neighborhood has had no mail delivery for a week. I have neighbors who are not getting paychecks as a result. Is there anything we can do to ensure USPS workers have the protective gear they need to feel safe on the job?
— Caroline McCarthy 🧢 (@caro) April 1, 2020
I’ve heard many reports of missing mail delivery (especially 10463).
— Jeffrey Dinowitz (@JeffreyDinowitz) March 31, 2020
State Senator Brad Hoylman said his office had fielded dozens of complaints about an abrupt stoppage of mail — primarily in the 10014 zip code, which covers the west side of Manhattan between Houston and 14th Street. Some said they hadn’t received anything in over a week.
“I’m concerned it’s getting worse. Especially for older adults who depend on mail most and are also sheltering in place, it’s vital,” said Hoylman. “We know that our postal workers are one of the groups that are on the front lines. I hope they’ve been provided with necessary PPE.”
But letter-carriers say the response from management has been nowhere near sufficient. According to an investigation from the Nation, postal workers across the country haven’t been provided soap, hand sanitizer, gloves, or other basic necessities, even as they’re expected to touch thousands of objects each day.
Last week, Rakkhon Kim, a 50-year old mailman in the Bronx, died of complications related to the virus. Shortly after, USPS claimed they’d rolled out new protocols requiring employees to wear masks and gloves.
A letter-carrier in Bushwick, who declined to be named because she was not authorized to speak to the press, told Gothamist the policy was not being followed. “A lot of people are sick right now, so it’s pretty backed up,” she added.
Meanwhile, federal officials are warning about the impending “collapse of mail” if the USPS doesn’t receive government assistance, largely absent in the most recent federal stimulus. In a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell last week, Rep. Gerald E. Connolly (D-VA) and Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) warned that the Postal Service could shutter as early as June without relief.
“As a direct result of the coronavirus crisis, it has become clear that the Postal Service will not survive the summer without immediate assistance from Congress and the White House,” they wrote.
The Postal Service is a quasi-governmental agency that generates revenue through fees, not taxes. The Washington Post reports that while revenue from shipping and packages was up for 2020, the Postal Service was already facing financial headwinds before the spread of COVID-19, due to a drop in proceeds coming “from first-class mail, marketing mail and periodicals.”