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Still out for delivery: Historic volume leaves area residents waiting for packages, pills

It’s Christmas Eve, but many packages around the area remain in limbo as the United States Postal Service deals with historic levels of holiday mail.

Some residents said they’ve been waiting on packages for weeks with no resolution in sight.

Delays at distribution centers are just one factor playing into it.

“I ordered something three weeks ago and the delivery date just kept changing,” said Sheila Cox of Lehighton. “It took a week for it to go from Philadelphia to the Lehigh Valley. It’s frustrating but I understand it’s probably out of the control of everyone.”

Requests for comment from several local post offices were unsuccessful, but in a press release issued last week, the USPS cited a historic record of holiday volume compounded by a temporary employee shortage due to the COVID-19 surge, and capacity challenges with airlifts and trucking as leading to temporary delays.

“We thank our customers for their continued support, and we are committed to making sure gifts and cards are delivered on time to celebrate the holidays,” said Kristin Seaver, Chief Retail and Delivery Officer of the Postal Service.

“We also thank our 644,000 employees who are working tirelessly throughout these unique conditions to ensure the delivery of holiday gifts and greetings. We continue to flex our network including making sure the right equipment is available to sort, process and deliver a historic volume of mail and packages this holiday season.”

It’s not only Christmas gifts that are held up, however, as residents have reported delays for items such as medication. Some bill payments are also not making it in on time.

“I’m waiting on pills,” said Allison Andrews of Palmerton. “It’s tough to get answers right now. The system is just overwhelmed.”

Customers in Palmerton reported going up to four or five days without getting any mail at all.

Others have seen expected packages that have arrived in the Lehigh Valley, but the next update to tracking data had it in areas further away, such as Philadelphia.

According to data on the website ShipMatrix, USPS is being severely challenged by excessive volume amounting to about 6 million per day being dropped in its network because of restrictions on large volume shippers by FedEx and UPS.

The website reported that from Dec. 6-12, FedEx was at 93.9% of parcels delivered, UPS at 96.1 percent, and USPS at 87.5%. That meant over 3.5 million parcels were experiencing a delay of one or more days.

Customers who have mail that has not been delivered by the expected delivery date can submit a missing mail search request at MissingMail.USPS.com.

Missing mail requests can also be filled out at local post office locations. Customers can also call 1-800-275-8777 (1-800-ASK-USPS) to ask for the phone number for a local consumer affairs office regarding a missing mail request.

Despite the delay, Cox said she’s not upset at postal workers, in fact, she respects the job they are doing this year even more.

“It’s just that kind of year,” she said. “There is so much to deal with, so much going on. I’m sure they are trying their best.”

Eve Terpak of the U.S. Postal Service delivers mail on her route on North Street in Pittsfield, Mass., Wednesday, Dec. 23, 2020. The Postal Service is struggling during the holidays due to COVID-19. (Ben Garver/The Berkshire Eagle via AP)