July 21, 2020 / 12:33 AM / in 15 days

CORRECTED-UPDATE 1-House Democrats press U.S. Postal Service on plans to delay mail

(Corrects to remove inaccurate subcommittee positions, paragraphs 4-5)

WASHINGTON, July 20 (Reuters) - Senior Democrats on a House of Representatives oversight committee wrote to the new postmaster general on Monday to press him on reports the service was prepared to delay mail delivery if needed to cut costs, a move that could affect mail-in ballot results.

The U.S. Postal Service’s losses have soared even as it has become more critical to the U.S. economy as consumers, confined to their homes because of the coronavirus, shop online. A determination to avoid crowds will also mean that voting by mail will be more popular this November.

Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, a Trump appointee who took office in June, has detailed changes to the service that include eliminating overtime, even if it means that mail delivery is delayed.

“While these changes in a normal year would be drastic, in a presidential election year when many states are relying heavily on absentee mail-in ballots, increases in mail delivery timing would impair the ability of ballots to be received and counted in a timely manner — an unacceptable outcome for a free and fair election,” wrote Representative Carolyn Maloney, chair of the Committee on Oversight and Reform.

The letter was also signed by Representatives Gerald Connolly, Stephen Lynch and Brenda Lawrence.

In a statement, Postal Service spokesman Dave Partenheimer said the agency was working on a plan to ensure it was financially stable. “It will certainly include new and creative ways for us to fulfill our mission,” he said.

The Postal Service has been struggling as email and social media have replaced letters and after a 2006 law required it to pre-fund employee pension and retirement health care costs for the next 75 years. It is funded through services and postage.

President Donald Trump has frequently criticized the post office, saying it charges too little to deliver packages sent by online retailers such as Amazon.com, whose founder and Chief Executive Jeff Bezos also owns the Washington Post. (Reporting by Diane Bartz; Editing by Dan Grebler and Leslie Adler)

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