I’m a letter writer and booster of the Post Office. Both my father and uncle, now deceased, were career postal workers. The United States Postal Service is the only delivery service that delivers to every single household in the United States in the cities and remote areas where other delivery services will not go.

But USPS is struggling not to sink under the weight of old economic pressures and new workforce mandates. Officially, USPS guarantees a 1–3-day delivery of First-Class mail. But, in recent years, the service has been under fire for failing to meet that standard.

Here in the GBH newsroom, we decided to test the speediness of the U.S. mail. On April 5, my fellow reporters, editors and hosts simultaneously mailed 100 letters to 38 states. Just over half of the letters arrived within the 1–3-day window, received by friends and family living in small towns, urban centers and suburban cities. One showed up three weeks later — though the hundredth one was still missing.

The results of our nonscientific study were somewhat disappointing, though perhaps not surprising. And the pandemic shutdown also contributed to the Postal Service»s recent spotty delivery record. The criticism about the Post Office has been brutal ± former President Donald Trump called USPS “a joke” and pushed to privatize it.

Now deliveries are about to get even slower. As of October 1, this Friday, postal workers will be ordered to deliberately slow down mail delivery. Postal workers fought the changes which will push the 1–3-day First-Class mail delivery to a routine 1–5 days. It’s all part of a controversial 10-year reform — read, cost-cutting plan — overseen by former President Donald Trump major donor Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, which includes deep slashes in staff overtime and eliminating some mail sorting machines that expedite the overall process. (For the record, taxpayer monies do not fund the Post Office; its only income is from stamps and package delivery.) I rushed to buy up a bunch of Forever stamps before the last hike in August when the price of Forever stamps rose to 58 cents. But pricier stamps alone can’t replace revenue lost, for example, from the pandemic-caused steep drop in business mail.

At a recent USPS Board of Governors meeting, DeJoy acknowledged the slowdown as part of some “uncomfortable changes.” Public comments solicited by the service were overwhelmingly negative. And recent President Biden appointee to the Postal Service Board Ron Stroman was also bluntly critical, saying the changes are “not justified by the relatively low financial return.” Stroman, who is a former Deputy Postmaster General, also warned that the brunt of the deliberate slowdown would impact low-income households and small businesses in regional areas including Florida, Texas, Maine and central areas of the country.

It doesn’t take a math whiz to calculate that more expensive stamps and Postmaster DeJoy’s proposed deep slashes to service and staff will likely add to more pressure on the service. He was in charge when equipment removal and staff changes staffing impacted the post office’s ability to handle the flood of mail-in ballots. DeJoy needs to be reined in, and Congress needs to vote to relieve the USPS of its crushing debt caused by Congress’ own act requiring USPS to prepay USPS pension/retiree health benefits 75 years into the future. Plus, I’m suspicious that DeJoy is on a mission to lead the service to its demise so he can put it into the hands of private contractors.

The United States Postal Service is a tent pole of American democracy and a major cog in the country’s supply chain — delivering medicines, ballots, paychecks. I worry that this deliberate slowdown will turn off some postal customers who can afford to choose alternative services further reducing stamp-related revenue.

By the way, the one outstanding letter in our newsroom experiment did finally arrive—one month after mailing. Here’s hoping that is not an example of what we can expect now.

Correction: A previous version of this commentary misspelled Ron Stroman’s name as Ron Sturman.