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Postal Service Slowdowns Hobble Utah Small Businesses

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Mail delays are putting pressure on small-business owners in Utah, who rely on the U.S. Postal Service for shipping products to their customers.

The agency had a $2.2 billion loss in the second quarter, and last week Postmaster General Louis DeJoy announced a major restructuring of Postal Service management, reassigning the top two officials in charge of daily operations.

A bipartisan group of senators introduced a bill last month to send $25 billion to the Postal Service, but it's still waiting for a vote.

Kristen Lavalett, executive director of Local First Utah, said many of the small businesses she represents are feeling the pinch of a slowdown in deliveries.

"I haven't had anybody expressly say to me, 'I'm definitely losing business because of the post office is slow.'" she said. "What I have had them say is, everything that is a bump in the road from them has more serious, longer-term impacts than people really understand."

Postal Service management has made other operational changes to cut costs that mail carriers say are slowing things down. The changes reduce overtime, order sorting machines to be shut off earlier, and require that carriers leave some mail behind to prevent running late on their routes.

Lavelett said she believes the Postal Service needs public support, not budget cuts. She said mail delays have been tough on local business owners, many of whom shifted to online sales when the pandemic forced them to close their doors to the public in March.

"They are doing their very best to stay afloat, to stay alive," she said. "I've heard a lot of my business owners say that they are working twice as hard for half as much money."

Small businesses employ about half the workforce in Utah.

Without stimulus, said John McHugh, who chairs the Package Coalition, a group concerned about the future of the Postal Service, the post office will run out of money -- and in turn, some small businesses may have to close.

"Thinking about the hoped-for economic recovery, well, as tough as it's going to be, it'll be that much more difficult with these small businesses having to shutter their doors."

McHugh, a former Republican congressman from New York, said he hopes enough lawmakers on both sides of the aisle will understand the severity of the situation and take swift action to save the U.S. Postal Service.

The text of the Postal Service Emergency Assistance Act is online at congress.gov.