Local

Houston region mail delivery delays under investigation by area congressional reps

U.S. Rep. Al Green, who represents a part of the Houston area that includes a Missouri City processing center where many parcels have been stuck, said his office has been contacted about the issue by more than 70 constituents during the last month, some of whom have reported delivery delays in excess of two weeks.

USPS Truck
Lucio Vasquez / Houston Public Media
Pictured is a mail delivery truck for the United States Postal Service.

U.S. Rep. Al Green said he and other Houston-area Congress members are investigating significant and widespread delays in mail delivery by the United States Postal Service (USPS).

Green, who represents a part of the Houston area that includes a Missouri City processing center where many parcels have been stuck, said his office has been contacted about the issue by more than 70 constituents, some of whom have reported delivery delays in excess of two weeks. The Congressman said he first learned about the problem on Dec. 15 and has been coordinating with fellow U.S. Rep. Sylvia Garcia, a fellow Houston Democrat, as well as U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul, a Republican who serves an area that stretches from Austin to College Station to the western part of Greater Houston.

"Given the amount of mail they deliver, I don't think it's unreasonable to think there may be some times when there are issues," Green said Friday. "But for it to be consistent and in the numbers that we're seeing is unacceptable.

"I don't know how big this (problem) is," he added, "but it seems to be growing the more I look into it, the more I find out, and that causes me some consternation. I hope we will get this resolved before the (March 5 primary) election, because mail-in ballots are very important pieces of mail."

Nikki Johnson, a regional USPS spokesperson for the Houston area, said in a statement the postal service is working through a system-wide transition to "modernize our mail and package processing network" in the interest of making its operations more efficient and cost-effective. She said USPS has established a local processing center in Missouri City, which is south of Houston, to complement a regional processing center in North Houston.

Green said he was told in a meeting with local USPS officials that it handled 21.4 million pieces of mail between the two processing centers from Nov. 27-Dec. 27, adding, "I think that they're having some issues at the north center as well."

Garcia corroborated that claim in a Friday statement.

“Together with Rep. Al Green we are jointly addressing the reported inefficiencies causing delivery delays at the USPS North Houston Processing Center in my district and Missouri City Processing Center in his,” Garcia said. “Both distribution centers have been a concern and source of constituent complaints. We are committed to ensuring the seamless operation of essential services for our constituents."

Items that are commonly sent by mail include prescription medications, gifts, bills and payments.

Matt Lanza of Space City Weather wrote in a Thursday social media post that he had "several packages sit in postal purgatory for 1-2 weeks after arriving in Houston. It's maddening."

"This process, as with any such transition, takes time," Johnson said in her statement. "As with any transition, some unintended and temporary disruptions may occur. We are taking steps to ensure packages are processed as quickly and efficiently as possible and apologize to any customers who may be experiencing issues with delivery of their items."

Johnson said impacted mail customers can contact USPS by phone at 1-800-275-8777 or through its website at www.usps.com/help so the postal service can "fully research the situation and provide a suitable resolution."

Green said his office also is assisting impacted constituents who complete privacy release forms. And he and Garcia are trying to schedule a time when they can tour both Houston-area processing centers, he said.

Green also said he is "very disappointed in the lack of transparency" from USPS, adding that he thinks the postal service should conduct interviews about the delivery delay issue with news reporters instead of providing written statements as Johnson did Friday. Her statement appeared to be identical to those published by other Houston-area news outlets in recent weeks, with Johnson telling Houston Public Media she had no new updates to provide.

Green said he'll continue digging into the issue on behalf of his constituents and others who may be impacted, saying, "If it's bigger than the Houston area, we want to let the world know."

Johnson said in her statement the system transformation that has caused the delivery delays "is necessary and fundamental to our continuation as an organization and a service to the American people and our business customers."

"The postal service is something we want to work as it's designed, because of what it does," Green said. "Every piece of mail is important because you don't know what the content of the mail is. You have to assume that every piece of mail could be something that could have a meaningful impact on someone's life."