It's the busiest time of year for many businesses, stores and nonprofits, but none more than the U.S. Postal Service.
Performance of the nation's mail service has been the target for multiple complaints and concerns. The quasi-public agency is chronically out of money, and recent cutbacks had many people worried about last month's national election, which leaned on mail-in ballots like none ever before.
And the holiday season — always the busiest time of the year for the post office — has been heavily impacted by the coronavirus pandemic pushing more shopping online with home delivery. There is another COVID-19 impact as well, according to Evelina Ramirez, USPS spokesperson for Los Angeles and Orange counties.
"As COVID is affecting every other business, it's affecting us too," Ramirez said. "We have a lot of people out. We're hiring now, and we've been hiring.
"And we've had our share of challenges recently."
Residents in several parts of Long Beach have noticed significant changes in mail delivery times, with some days skipped completely. Ramirez said that issue is not limited to Long Beach, and is caused by both more mail volume and new mail carriers.
"As far as late deliveries are concerned, we do have to flex our resources at times," Ramirez said. "Bottom line, we're making sure deliveries are made. Sometimes we have to go out late, maybe even go out twice. But we're constantly delivering."
Earlier this year, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy very publicly pushed to limit overtime, reduce equipment and maintain schedules. News accounts talked of mail being left at stations because there wasn't time to sort it or load it.
Ramirez denied those claims, saying she was not aware of any limits in regards to overtime.
"It's been different this year, no doubt," she said. "We're abiding by all the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) guidelines. We're constantly hiring, but we're shorthanded. Still, we get it all delivered."
Ramirez said the post office's busiest week of the year is between Dec. 14 and Dec. 21. She urged people to mail cards, and particularly packages, early to make sure they get to their destination before Christmas.
In order to make it a little easier, the Long Beach Downtown Post Office, 300 Long Beach Blvd., will have extended hours the weekends of Dec. 12, 13 and 19, 20. The post office will open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays and 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sundays.
To get packages and cards to a destination in the continental United States before Christmas, it's recommended to mail by Dec. 15 for Retail Ground Service, Dec. 18 for First Class, Dec. 19 for Priority and Dec. 23 for Priority Mail Express.