CHICAGO (CBS) — Local and national lawmakers are sounding the alarm about the crisis affecting the USPS, and want the U.S. Senate to approve the bill voted on over the weekend by the U.S. Congress.

“We’re here because we’re worried about the health and safety of the residents of Cook County,” said Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle. “As the U.S. Postal Service delays mount, more and more patients at Cook County Health are seeing longer wait times to receive critical medications, and our doctors pharmacists nurses and staff are concerned because the problem is growing.”

“Why did this postal issue become such a big national issue. Why won’t it go away. Why don’t we keep talking about it,” asked Illinois U.S. Senator Dick Durbin. “Because when it gets right down to it, the Postal Service is very personal to America, very personal.”

The House of Representatives on Saturday approved an additional $25 billion in funding for the U.S. Postal Service and the reversal of recent operational changes that critics say delayed mail delivery. At a press conference ahead of the vote, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who called the rare Saturday session, called the Postal Service “as American as apple pie, motherhood, baseball.”

Called the “Delivering for America Act,” also ensures the Postal Service would not be able to implement any operational changes until January 2021, after the November election.

RELATED: Members Of Congress Address Growing Complaints About USPS Deliveries

Durbin explained that seniors depend on the USPS to get their medications. He said according to the USPS, 1.2 billion prescriptions are delivered annually by the post office.

“Ninety percent of veterans get the VA prescriptions by the mail. We know that it’s something that people count on and look forward to. With so many patients postponing healthcare appointments due to COVID-19, opting to get their prescriptions delivered by mail, and the timely delivery of that mail is critically and personally important.”

Doctor Claudia Fegan is the Chief Medical Officer of the Cook County Health Department said the problem is affecting people who are not able to leave their homes.

“Cook County Health patients have experienced major delays and meal deliveries with immediate daily medication prescriptions due to the US Postal Service’s cut backs.  We are worried about people being able to receive their medications on time without disruption,” Fegan said. “Our patients are seniors. They’re veterans. They are people who have mobility and transportation issues, and are at higher risk for COVID-19. We have some zip codes, where 50% of our mail order prescriptions were delayed.”

The bill approved Saturday heads to the Republican-led Senate. On Saturday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell released a statement accusing House Democrats of “ignoring the urgent needs of American workers and families.”

Illinois U.S. Congressman Bobby Rush called McConnell “Mitch the Merciless” and asked that he, along with the rest of the Senate, vote to get the funding to the USPS.

“That Mitch the merciless show some mercy to our seniors, our elders, whose lives depend on the postal service and to deliver their mail,” Rush said.

Representative Sean Casten (D-IL 6th) said it’s not just people who need their important prescriptions who are being affected. Businesses across the state are also being affected.

“We’ve had over 2,000 calls to our office these have been from small businesses wondering how it is that they’re going to meet contractually mandated delivery deadlines when they’re waiting for a part that isn’t showing up, Casten said. “Why are we asking our citizens to choose between their health and their civic obligation to vote?”

He added that despite the mounting frustrations people have over the lack of timely deliveries, Casten asked that people be kind to the postal carriers and others in the post office who are doing their jobs as best they can.

“I just ask everybody to have some respect for for the folks who are working hard to deliver the mail,” Casten said. “Save your hostility towards those who are blocking their ability to do the job they want to do.”

The Trump administration has faced fierce criticism over the handling of the USPS problems, including the appointment of Louis DeJoy as U.S. Postmaster General, because he is a major donor to Trump’s campaign.

DeJoy, a Republican donor who assumed the role of postmaster general in June, said in a statement his initiatives would be suspended “to avoid even the appearance of any impact on election mail.”

“The Postal Service is ready today to handle whatever volume of election mail it receives this fall,” he said. “Even with the challenges of keeping our employees and customers safe and healthy as they operate amid a pandemic, we will deliver the nation’s election mail on time and within our well-established service standards. The American public should know that this is our number one priority between now and election day.”

The Senate reconvenes its session in September.

 

CBS 2 Chicago Staff