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In like a lion

Winter brought hardship, hope

USPS vehicle stops at mailbox on suburban street
In February, USPS released this image of a next-generation delivery vehicle prototype.

As 2021 began, the Postal Service was catching its breath after the triple whammy of a record-breaking holiday peak season, a historic surge in election mail and the continuing coronavirus pandemic.

In a video message to employees on Jan. 4, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy acknowledged the hardships but focused on better days ahead.

“I want us to put our organization and every employee in a better position to succeed,” he said.

As COVID-19 vaccines slowly began to roll out across the country, postal workers soldiered on.

Employee-generated sales leads soared, with Customer Connect hitting $3 billion in sales, and strong performances from Rural Reach, Clerks Care, Mail Handlers and other programs.

The sales boom might have had something to do with a start-up surge that began in 2020, when businesses found a ready shipping partner in USPS.

The pandemic also brought out new levels of postal appreciation and inspiration among customers, including a Maryland woman’s project to lift spirits through the mail and an entrepreneurial Utah couple who created a subscription-based epistolary romance.

The Postal Service also made two big moves during the first quarter of the year.

In February, the organization awarded a 10-year contract to Oshkosh Defense to manufacture a new generation of delivery vehicles that will drive the most dramatic modernization of the USPS fleet in three decades, and in March, the Postal Service unveiled Delivering for America, its 10-year plan to achieve financial sustainability.

“This plan marks the start of an important chapter for the Postal Service in our long history and tradition of changing and improving to better serve the American public,” DeJoy wrote in a memo to employees.

Coming next: Link’s four-part review of 2021 continues Dec. 27 with a look back at spring developments.