Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
Partly Cloudy Night 46° Partly Cloudy
News >  Pacific NW

Where’s my stuff? Mail could be delayed as Spokane’s postal services wrestles with staffing shortages, weather

UPDATED: Wed., Jan. 26, 2022

U.S. Postal Service carrier Carl Schmidt braves the elements as he walks his route in December 2020 in Spokane.  (Tyler Tjomsland/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)
U.S. Postal Service carrier Carl Schmidt braves the elements as he walks his route in December 2020 in Spokane. (Tyler Tjomsland/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)

At least 10% of Spokane’s normal mail delivery routes have faced delays after wintry weather and recent coronavirus surges, according to the region’s postal service providers.

Earl Eisenrich, mail processing facility manager for United States Postal Service in Eastern Washington and North Idaho, said about 30 mail carriers are not able to go on their usual mail routes.

This means delayed mail has affected 10% to 15% of the service’s routes, he said.

“We have more employees out than I’ve ever seen in the two years of COVID,” Eisenrich said. “This thing is touching pretty much every office in one way, shape or form.”

Post Falls, Coeur d’Alene, Deer Park and Medical Lake in particular have been affected, he said.

Ernie Swanson, Northwest spokesperson for the United States Postal Service, said some offices have been hit especially hard.

“It’s certainly been a challenge for the Postal Service, and I know all our people are dedicated to getting the mail delivered,” Swanson said. “We’re doing our very best.”

With rural routes that often stretch over 100 miles, shifting to fill these routes has meant longer hours for the Postal Service employees, Eisenrich said.

Some employees have worked from early dawn until 10 p.m., Eisenrich said.

“We don’t love it, but there’s almost no other way to deal with the situation than to make the shifts longer for the employees that remain,” Eisenrich said.

Swanson said staffing shortages have been affecting mail delivery since before the holidays, but the snowstorms that hit Eastern Washington and caused closure of the mountain passes also added to the delays.

If carriers cannot get to a house on one day because of ice or snow, Swanson said they come back the next day or until they can make the delivery.

“They don’t just let it accumulate at the post office,” Swanson said.

Eisenrich said they hope new coronavirus cases will flatten in the coming weeks and put an end to the long shifts for employees who took on more routes.

Swanson said he asks customers to be patient and make sure there’s a clear path from the street to their mailboxes to make the delivery faster.

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

Local journalism is essential.

Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.

Active Person

Subscribe now to get breaking news alerts in your email inbox

Get breaking news delivered to your inbox as it happens.