The US postmaster general, Louis DeJoy, announced Tuesday that he will suspend changes to the US Postal Service, like removing mail collection boxes, until after the November presidential election.
"To avoid even the appearance of any impact on election mail, I am suspending these initiatives until after the election is concluded," DeJoy said in a statement.
Earlier this summer, DeJoy announced some cost-cutting changes to the agency's operations. This included changing retail hours of post offices, cutting overtime for postal workers, removing collection boxes, closing facilities, and slowing the delivery of some mail.
In his statement, DeJoy said he assures the American public that retail hours at post offices won't change, and that mail processing equipment and blue collection boxes will remain where they are. No mail processing facilities will be closed, he said. The statement does not clarify whether mailboxes and other equipment that have been removed will be replaced.
DeJoy acknowledged that the USPS will "play a critical role this year in delivering election mail" and stressed that the agency is "ready, willing, and able to meet this challenge."
"The Postal Service is ready today to handle whatever volume of election mail it receives this fall. 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," his statement reads.
He also announced the expansion of the USPS's leadership task force, which will focus on delivering and handling election mail.
"Because of the unprecedented demands of the 2020 election, this taskforce will help ensure that election officials and voters are well informed and fully supported by the Postal Service," he wrote.
The USPS appointed DeJoy as postmaster general in May. He announced these operational changes in June, immediately sparking worries from both Republicans and Democrats that a slowed-down, inefficient Postal Service would hinder voting by mail leading up to Election Day.
President Donald Trump has made it explicitly clear he doesn’t trust the integrity of mail-in voting, saying, without proof, this is “a rigged election waiting to happen” and “the greatest fraud in history,” in an interview with Fox Business Network. Trump himself has repeatedly cast absentee ballots in Florida.
"It's going to make our country the laughingstock of the world,” he said during a Saturday press conference.
The policy changes from DeJoy — a megadonor to Trump's campaign — sparked protests outside his homes in Washington, DC, and Greensboro, North Carolina, in which demonstrators called for his resignation. The USPS inspector general is investigating DeJoy’s actions and potential ethics violations, CNN reported.
The agency, which was already losing money before the COVID-19 pandemic, was reportedly set to lose $13 billion in revenue by the end of this fiscal year.
DeJoy's statement came the same day that Democratic state attorneys general announced they would be filing two lawsuits against the USPS over delivery delays.
“We put Trump and his hand-picked Postmaster General on notice, and it worked," Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey and Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum said in a joint statement. "It’s no coincidence that DeJoy backed down just as Democratic AGs announced lawsuits."
The postmaster general is going to testify before the Senate's Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on Friday.
On Saturday, the House of Representatives will vote on a bill that includes $25 billion in emergency funding for the USPS.