Customers looking to send holiday packages through the Ephrata Post Office may find the retail counter there closed during normal business hours.
Despite Postmaster General Louis DeJoy telling the post office board in November that “We are ready!” for the holiday rush, recently there have not been enough Postal Service employees to handle normal operations at the Ephrata Post Office at 129 E. Main St. In the borough. While the Postal Service did not provide a complete picture of what’s happening there to LNP | LancasterOnline, it appears customer counter workers are being reassigned to sorting or other duties.
As of Tuesday, 100 Pennsylvania job openings appeared on the Postal Service online job portal, including two in Ephrata and others in Millersville, Lancaster, Blue Ball, Narvon, Leola, Millersville, Columbia and other Lancaster County locations.
The Ephrata Post Office has displayed signs recently explaining a lack of available employees has forced the U.S. Postal Service to cut down the retail hours at the borough office, according to Liz Ackerman, executive director at the Northern Lancaster County Chamber of Commerce.
Ackerman said she has noticed the differing hours over the last week or so, since the chamber has a P.O. Box she visits. She said she can also see the post office entrance from her office window.
An employee at the post office previously told LNP | LancasterOnline he was not authorized to speak directly to news media, but a staff member there on Tuesday told Ackerman that the post office’s hours are posted on the USPS website.
On Tuesday, those listed hours showed its normal weekday hours of 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and 8 a.m. to noon on Saturday. It is closed on Sunday.
The Ephrata Post Office also acts as a sorting facility for the surrounding area’s mail, Ackerman said. The Postal Service is prioritizing that operation over keeping the customer counter open during all business hours, Ackerman relayed from a staff member there.
When LNP | LancasterOnline requested more information regarding the Ephrata Borough office and staffing around Lancaster County, a Postal Service spokesperson on Nov. 23 emailed a statement saying that “employee availability at the Ephrata Post Office has been impacted recently,” but did not provide specifics.
“To maintain service, the Postal Service moves employees from neighboring offices to cover short-term vacancies, fully authorizes overtime when needed and aggressively increased our hiring efforts,” USPS spokesperson Freda Sauter said.
The job listings at the Postal Service’s job portal do not provide any public information regarding pay and benefits, but an entry-level carrier position starts at $18.51 an hour, a spokesperson said.
A flier at the Ephrata post office that advertises vacant positions at the location, says the jobs for that location will be posted online between Dec. 21 and Dec. 23.
A spokesperson said the USPS is holding a job fair on Dec. 22 at the Lancaster post office at 1400 Harrisburg Pike from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Ackerman said she has not heard complaints about the fewer hours at the post office counter from the chamber’s members. They likely use other carriers or services that allow customers to drop packages with mail carriers, she said.
Other business owners and managers can sympathize with the staffing the Postal Service’s staffing woes, Ackerman said. “It does speak to just the challenge that this is across the board in so much as it’s not one particular industry, it’s all industries.”