Tester Declares Postal Service Explanations for Box Removal ‘unacceptable,’ Continues Push for Answers

More than 7,000 Montanans have contacted Tester with concerns about USPS since March

After weeks of silence and followed by inadequate explanations from U.S. Postal Service (USPS) Postmaster General Louis DeJoy regarding the removal mail collection boxes from communities across Montana, U.S. Senator Tester is doubling down on his push for answers.

This week, USPS government affairs officials—not Postmaster General DeJoy—finally responded to Tester’s August 13th letter blowing the whistle on collection boxes being removed from Montana communities. However, the USPS response did not provide a full accounting of all boxes removed from across the state, something Tester has sought aggressively in his effort to secure answers for Montanans.

“My office also received information that was subsequently reported by local press that numerous mail collection boxes were removed from Missoula, however, USPS has not disclosed any removed boxes from that city,” wrote Tester in a letter to Postmaster General DeJoy. “These gaps in transparency are unacceptable. I ask that you provide the following details for the entire calendar year of 2020:

  • The number of boxes that were removed across Montana, including a breakdown of business and residential boxes.
  • The address of each box removed.
  • The date each box was removed.”

Additionally, USPS officials wrote that the removals were based on density tests performed in late June, raising questions about the accuracy of data collected during the summer months of a global pandemic.

“I ask you to provide additional information about the density tests that informed USPS’ box removal process,” Tester continued. “In Bozeman, for example, several of the business boxes that were removed were located on the Montana State University (MSU) campus. It is not surprising that density tests conducted in June when there are very few students on the MSU campus would show these boxes aren’t being highly trafficked as opposed to when school is in session. Additionally, as these tests were apparently conducted in the middle of a global pandemic that has dramatically altered the normal course of life across the country, I am skeptical that this information could produce an accurate assessment of whether a box was eligible to be removed. I ask that you provide the specific test information for the business boxes in Montana and how that information compares to any previous tests conducted in previous years.”

Tester has led the charge to hold Postmaster General Louis DeJoy accountable after USPS undertook policy changes that have delayed mail and threatened to undermine the agency. More than 7,000 Montanans have contacted Tester to express concerns about mail delays since the pandemic began in March.

Tester blew the whistle on USPS for removing dozens of mail collection boxes from towns across Montana, leading USPS to pause its removal of collection boxes nationwide until after the election. He recently announced legislation that would prevent USPS from removing any further mail collection boxes across the country, force the agency to reinstate the boxes that were removed, and require DeJoy to submit a report to Congress explaining why collection boxes were removed in the first place.

Tester has also urged DeJoy to correct operational changes that are needlessly delaying veterans’ access to prescriptions and pushed back on the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) following reports that it was scaling back its relationship with USPS, urging VA Secretary Robert Wilkie to address any concerns with the status of prescription deliveries for veterans—especially in rural states like Montana.

In July, Tester introduced bipartisan legislation to provide $25 billion in emergency assistance to help USPS recoup pandemic related losses and other operational expenses. He has also pushed Senate leadership to make significant emergency investments in the agency a part of any new coronavirus aid package, as well as to provide support and protective equipment for the agency’s employees.

Read Tester’s full letter to Postmaster General DeJoy HERE.

Read USPS’s response to Tester’s August 13 letter HERE.

Read Tester’s August 13 letter HERE.