Postal Service agrees to reverse service changes

National

The United States Postal Service logo is seen on a mailbox outside a post office in Los Angeles, California, August 17, 2020. – The United States Postal Service is popularly known for delivering mail despite snow, rain or heat, but it faces a new foe in President Donald Trump. Ahead of the November 3 elections in which millions of voters are expected to cast ballots by mail due to the coronavirus, Trump has leveled an unprecedented attack at the USPS, opposing efforts to give the cash-strapped agency more money as part of a big new virus-related stimulus package, even as changes there have caused delays in mail delivery. (Photo by Robyn Beck / AFP) (Photo by ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images)

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — The U.S. Postal Service agreed Wednesday to reverse changes that slowed mail service nationwide, settling a lawsuit filed by Montana Gov. Steve Bullock during a pandemic that is expected to force many more people to vote by mail.

The lawsuit filed against Postmaster General Louis DeJoy and the U.S. Postal Service on Sept. 9 argued changes implemented in June harmed access to mail services in Montana, resulting in delayed delivery of medical prescriptions, payments, and job applications, and impeding the ability of Montana residents to vote by mail.

The postal service agreed to reverse all changes, which included reduced retail hours, removal of collection boxes and mail sorting machines, closure or consolidation of mail processing facilities, restriction of late or extra trips for timely mail delivery, and banning or restricting overtime.

The agreement also requires the Postal Service to prioritize election mail.

The settlement agreement was reached a day ahead of a hearing in the U.S. District Court in Great Falls. It applies to all states.

“Montanans never gave up this fight and as a result, we are ensuring stability through and beyond the election by immediately restoring the mail services folks rely on, whether it’s receiving vital medication or ensuring they can pay their bills on time,” Bullock said in a statement.

A spokesperson for the U.S. Postal Service did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

Many more voters are expected to vote by mail this November to limit the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. The majority of Montana counties are holding elections by mail, after a directive by Bullock permitted them to do so to limit the spread of the coronavirus. Bullock is running for a seat in the U.S. Senate.

The agreement comes after a federal judge temporarily blocked the controversial Postal Service changes on Sept. 17, calling the changes “a politically motivated attack on the efficiency of the Postal Service” before the November election.

Judge Stanley Bastian in Yakima, Washington, issued the nationwide preliminary injunction sought by 14 states that brought forward a separate suit against the Trump administration and the U.S. Postal Service. The 14 states, led by Democratic attorneys general, expressed concern that delays might result in voters not receiving ballots or registration forms in time.

Following a national uproar last month, DeJoy, a major donor to President Donald Trump and the GOP, announced he was suspending some of the changes, including the removal of mail collection boxes, but other changes remained in place.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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