Some Cape Elizabeth residents say they have not had their mail delivered in more than a week, and that they’ve been told that regular mail has taken a back seat to package deliveries in recent weeks.

Cape resident Sue Clark said she has been getting packages delivered, but hasn’t received a letter since Dec. 21. Clark worries that some of her bills won’t get paid on time.

“We just want the postal service to continue delivering mail,” Clark said in a telephone interview Thursday evening. “It seems strange to me that they are delivering packages, but not mail.”

U.S. Postal Service management in Portland issued an order earlier this month saying package deliveries should be carriers’ top priority, according to Mark Seitz, a letter carrier and president of both the Maine Association of Letter Carriers and Local 92 of the union, which represents about 700 workers in southern Maine.

“Management put an order out about three or four weeks ago stating that packages take priority over letters,” Seitz said in a telephone interview Thursday night. That doesn’t mean that no letters are being delivered, he said, but that packages have been delivered first, then letters if there is time to do so.

A staffing shortage, holiday vacations, a COVID outbreak at the Portland post office that affected 15 carriers, and retirements have reduced the number of carriers working out of the Portland office to about 165, about 55 fewer than called for, Seitz said. The Portland post office serves Cape Elizabeth, Falmouth, Westbrook, Portland, South Portland and Cumberland Foreside.

With a thinner than usual workforce, letter carriers regularly work overtime, often clocking 60- to 80-hour, seven-day work weeks, Seitz said.

Stephen Doherty, spokesman for the postal service’s northeast region, attributes the disruptions in mail delivery to staffing shortages and the pandemic.

“The COVID-19 pandemic continues to present unprecedented challenges and occasionally impacts employee availability,” Doherty said in a email Thursday evening. “We thank our customers for their understanding and continued support.”

Doherty said the postal service is taking steps to improve mail delivery. Among them are authorizing overtime, making deliveries earlier in the morning and later in the evening as well as on Sundays, borrowing carriers from nearby offices when necessary, and hiring additional personnel.

“As we move past these short term employee availability issues, we will continue to use all of the tools at our disposal to assure that our Cape Elizabeth customers get the kind of First Class service that they’ve come to expect and deserve,” Doherty said in the email.

It wasn’t clear Thursday whether other towns have experienced the same delivery problems that are happening in Cape Elizabeth.

A spokesperson for U.S. Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, said his office will look into any mail delivery disruptions in Cape Elizabeth or neighboring towns.

“Senator King and his staff have been continuously engaged with communities around the state about irregularities or delays in U.S. Postal service functions, which have grown more complicated due to the ongoing COVID pandemic,” Matthew Felling said in an email. “His staff is looking into any potential irregularities in Cape Elizabeth, and encourages Maine people statewide to inform his staff of extended problems in their service.”

Joseph Gajda, who lives in Cape Elizabeth and has not received mail in more than a week, said he is concerned because bills and bank statements could be gathering dust in the post office.

“We’ve been getting packages but no letters,” Gajda said Thursday evening.

Frustrated by the lack of communication, Gajda and his wife went to the South Portland post office Thursday. A worker there advised him to go to the Portland post office on Forest Avenue where he could collect the letters that have not been delivered.

“What has been missing in all of this is the communication piece,” Gajda said. “It’s just been complete silence on behalf of the postal service.”

Another Cape Elizabeth resident who lives in the Broad Cove neighborhood but did not want his name used said he also has not received any mail since Dec. 21.

“Packages are still being delivered, and several people have spoken to the letter carriers delivering the packages. They have been told that a decision was made to stop mail delivery in order to prioritize packages,” he wrote in an email to the Press Herald. “One letter carrier told someone that all your mail is piled up in the Forest Avenue Post Office.”


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