The controversy surrounding the U.S. Postal Service could create headaches for bankers who otherwise have been trying to steer well clear of the political fight over potential election tampering.
While Postmaster General Louis DeJoy faces mounting criticism over how his operational changes have threatened mail-in voting and held up delivery of critical medicines in the middle of a pandemic, there is a growing concern that the recent postal service slowdown could lead to more late fees accrued on debt payments.
If these charges begin to escalate while the economy remains shuttered to prevent new surges of the coronavirus, banks and credit card companies could face new pressure to waive fees while fixes are considered for the postal service.
Bankers and some advocates have also warned of potential problems with granting further debt relief for consumers and small businesses if crucial documents are held up along the way.
DeJoy was pressed during a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs hearing Friday on whether the U.S. Postal Service took into account the potential costs that would mount on loan payments if bills were delayed by his changes. The brief back-and-forth echoed concerns that some advocates and lawmakers have raised in recent days.
“Did you do any analysis about the fees if mail is late, the late fees that people would get when they paid their rent or their car payment or their utility bill if the mail is slowed down and the impact that the charges and those fees would have on working families?” asked Sen. Jacky Rosen, D-Nev.
“The analysis that we did is that if we moved the mail on schedule that all late deliveries would have been improved,” DeJoy said.
“Obviously that isn’t the case,” Rosen said.
Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich., the ranking member of the committee, received more than 7,500 postal delay stories from constituents in his state and across the U.S. since launching an investigation on Aug. 6, his office said in an email Friday. These include reports of delayed financial documents, bank statements, paychecks and bills, according to Peters’s office.
DeJoy said throughout the hearing that the changes made to the postal system, like altered trucking schedules and the removal of mail-sorting equipment, is a result of fewer letters coming through a cash-strapped system. He has said these changes would be paused until after the election and that a committee was being formed to help solve problems with delays. But it’s unclear what reversals would be made to speed up mail delivery.
Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, the ranking member of the Senate Banking Committee, raised concerns about the financial challenges consumers could face due to delays in mail delivery.
“Any delay in mail service could mean people — through no fault of their own — risk financial hardship by not being able to…
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