By Tara Molina

CHICAGO (CBS) — The pandemic delayed Maria Quiroz’s becoming a U.S. citizen, and then the U.S. Postal Service lost the documents she needs to prove she has done so.

For months, we have investigated missing mail and mail delays. On Thursday night CBS 2’s Tara Molina looked into internal issues at USPS – with Quiroz’s passport documentation stuck in a distribution facility for more than a month.

Molina asked the USPS what can be done to help her and ensure such a thing does not happen again.

The only documents Quiroz has to prove she is a naturalized U.S. citizen are lost somewhere within the USPS system.

Quiroz told us if the USPS does not find them, or formally admit they’re lost, she is on the hook for more than $500 to replace them.

And that is just part of her concern.

“I just recently got naturalized on October 16,” Quiroz said.

And just 11 days later, after a long path to citizenship, Quiroz put that naturalization certificate in the mail with her expedited application for a U.S. Passport.

“We definitely feel like we are in limbo,” Quiroz said.

The application never made it out of Illinois.

“I don’t know for how long they will be able to claim that it’s in transit,” Quiroz said.

According to the last tracking update with USPS, the documents have been in a distribution facility in Elk Grove Village since Nov. 1. What we know for sure, it that it is not with the U.S. Department of State, where it belongs.

“They have to give a status of what has happened with that application,” Quiroz said.

But despite weeks of phone calls, emails, and visits to offices, Quiroz told us she still doesn’t have an update, an answer, or most importantly, a way to leave the country to see her family in Colombia for the holidays.

“How do I prove I’m an American citizen?” she said.

We reached USPS with this early Thursday. We if Quiroz’s application – and only document proving citizenship – has really been in their Elk Grove distribution facility for more than a month, how that could happen, and what they’re doing fix it.

USPS spokesman Tim Norman released the following statement on Friday:

The Chicago District Consumer Affairs office investigated the tracking and said since it has been more than 30 days since the item was last scanned, the only available options include filing a Missing Mail Search or a claim.

An online Missing Mail Search can be submitted for packages containing important original documents or items valued at $25 or more.  Additionally, Priority Mail items include $50.00 insurance coverage due to loss or damage during processing.  The customer should visit www.usps.com to begin the Missing Mail Search process and to file a claim.

Consumer Affairs said they have not heard of insurance not being allowed on passport application requests.  USPS insures Priority Mail and if the documents have to be reproduced, the cost would be covered.

Meanwhile, what is Quiroz’s hope?

“That the document shows up, or that they admit they lost it and they take responsibility for that,” she said.

Molina also followed up with the office of U.S. Rep. Danny Davis (D-Illinois), in whose district Quiroz resides.

As spokesperson said they have someone in the office who works specifically on mail related issues who will open a case and try to help Quiroz if she does not hear back from USPS.

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Tara Molina