Following complaints, USPS says it will stop removing collection boxes for 90 days

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CHICAGO, ILLINOIS – AUGUST 15: United States Postal Service (USPS) trucks are parked at a postal facility on August 15, 2019 in Chicago, Illinois. In its recent quarterly statement the USPS reported a loss of nearly $2.3 billion and a 3.2 percent decline in package deliveries, the first decline in nearly a decade. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

The United States Postal Service announced Sunday it would stop removing postal collection boxes through late November following complaints about how some had been taken away, meaning there will be no change in the boxes’ locations until after Election Day.

USPS had faced heavy criticism for the removals as there is expected to be a large surge of people mailing in their ballots instead of going to polls in this presidential election.

“Given the recent customer concerns the Postal Service will postpone removing boxes for a period of 90 days while we evaluate our customers concerns,” USPS spokeswoman Kim Frum said in a statement to CNN.

Frum said USPS annually reviews how much various boxes are used to “identify redundant/seldom used collection boxes as first-class mail volume continues” to decline.

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“Based on the density testing, boxes are identified for potential removal and notices are placed on boxes to give customers an opportunity to comment before the removal decision is made. This process is one of the many ways the Postal Services makes adjustments to our infrastructure to match our resources to declining mail volumes,” Frum also said in the statement.

White House chief of staff Mark Meadows said earlier Sunday that USPS will not dismantle any mail-sorting machines between now and Election Day.

“Sorting machines between now and Election Day will not be taken off line,” Meadows told CNN’s Jake Tapper on “State of the Union.”

Chris Bentley, president of the National Postal Mail Handlers Union Local 297, which covers Kansas and part of Missouri, previously told CNN that postal management had already taken out four machines in Kansas City, two machines in Springfield, Missouri, and one machine in Wichita, Kansas.

Meadows told CNN that was not part of a new initiative but was part of a pre-planned reallocation.

Documents obtained by CNN last week indicated 671 machines used to organize letters or other pieces of mail are slated for “reduction” in dozens of cities this year.

The USPS’s own document called the move a “reduction” of equipment.

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A letter sent Wednesday from the National Postal Mail Handlers Union to the Postal Service headquarters asked, “Why are these machines being removed?”

On Friday, the postal service, which is mired in longstanding funding problems, warned nearly all 50 states and Washington, DC, that mail-in ballots may not be received by election offices in time to be counted.

Postmaster General Louis DeJoy’s administration has slowed delivery, removed high-speed letter sorters from commission and issued a stark warning to election officials that mail-in ballots will no longer automatically be moved as priority mail. On top of that, the USPS has started reducing post office operating hours across several states, cut overtime for postal workers and removed some of their iconic blue letter collection boxes.

In the wake of what DeJoy is calling a “restructuring,” the agency’s inspector general is now reviewing these policy changes. Democrats are amping up demands that DeJoy rescind his changes and get the agency ready for the flood of mail-in ballots necessitated by the pandemic.

House Democrats said Sunday they are “ramping up” their investigation of the USPS and as Democratic leaders, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, called on DeJoy and Chairman of the Postal Service Board of Governors Robert Duncan to testify.

The leaders said in a statement that they want the officials to appear at a hearing on August 24 to discuss what they call “recent, sweeping and dangerous operational changes at the Postal Service that are slowing the mail and jeopardizing the integrity of the election.”

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