Research by the United Nations has revealed a 21% drop in postal volume during the first half of 2020.
A press release from the Universal Postal Union, the U.N. subsidiary that compiled the report, attributed the drop to widespread disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
U.S. Postal Service (USPS) Postmaster General Megan Brennan attributed the drop to distressed businesses cutting back on sending advertisements and catalogs.
The U.N. data explored the period between January 23 and May 14 and noted that one of every 2.1 items mailed arrived at their destination within the same week. Mailings normally arrive at a rate of one of every 1.1 items per week.
The report comes as several postal services, including the USPS, endure existential financial battles.
CNBC, the U.S. cable network, reported that the USPS has not turned a profit in over 10 years, recording $83 billion in losses from 2006 to 2020. In April, the USPS predicted that its funds would run out by September if it did not receive at least $75 billion in congressional aid.
In a statement to the House Oversight and Reform Committee, Brennan said the USPS is positioned to lose $13 billion because of the pandemic.
“These new developments have come at a time at which the postal sector was already facing unprecedented change, owing to decades-long macro trends such as digitalization, liberalization and changing citizen needs,” the UPU report states.
One of these shifting needs is the potential for mail-in voting for the U.S. presidential election in November.
Faced with reduced capabilities to handle large volumes and reduced mail transit speeds, advocates warn that voters, especially those in rural areas, face unique challenges pertaining to mail-in voting.
Such challenges could produce lower voter turnout, said Betsy Huber, president of the National Grange, a nonprofit that advocates for support and equality for rural parts of the country.
“Unreliable, interrupted mail service would cause additional delays and possibly disenfranchise voters whose ballots are delayed in any part of the process,” she said.
The USPS assured voters that ballots would be delivered and processed in a timely and equitable manner.
“The Postal Service has continued and will continue to serve its customers during the COVID-19 pandemic through the delivery of not only election mail, but also medicine, essential consumer staples, benefits checks and important information,” USPS spokesperson Dave Partenheimer told CNBC.