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Harvest Public Media is a reporting collaboration focused on issues of food, fuel and field. Based at KCUR in Kansas City, Harvest covers these agriculture-related topics through an expanding network of reporters and partner stations throughout the Midwest.Most Harvest Public Media stories begin with radio- regular reports are aired on member stations in the Midwest. But Harvest also explores issues through online analyses, television documentaries and features, podcasts, photography, video, blogs and social networking. They are committed to the highest journalistic standards. Click here to read their ethics standards.Harvest Public Media was launched in 2010 with the support of a grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Today, the collaboration is supported by CPB, the partner stations, and contributions from underwriters and individuals.Tri States Public Radio is an associate partner of Harvest Public Media. You can play an important role in helping Harvest Public Media and Tri States Public Radio improve our coverage of food, field and fuel issues by joining the Harvest Network. Learn more here.

The Post Office Plans To Hire Temporary Help As Online Orders Stress Rural Letter Carriers

Bill Wheelhouse / Harvest Public Media
Bill Wheelhouse / Harvest Public Media

The surge in online shopping is helping the U.S. Postal Service stay afloat financially, but the influx of packages is straining rural letter carriers across the country. 

An increase in online orders is projected to help the postal service run until September 2021. Ronnie Stutts, the president of the National Rural Letter Carriers' Association, says while the increase in mail is good, they are facing a worker shortage because a large percentage rural carriers are still on leave. 

“It's really created a stress on the people that are working,” Stutts says. “They're working a lot more hours, they're splitting routes, staying out on the street, sometimes at 8, 9, 10 o'clock at night.”

Stutts says many part-time workers are working 60 to 80 hours a week and many are quitting. He expects the number of packages will double or triple as the holiday season inches closer. In an effort to get more help, The National Letter Carriers’ Association signed a memorandum of understanding with the USPS to hire temporary assistant rural letter carriers through the season. 

Jeremy McComas, an assistant district representative for the National Rural Letter Association and a rural letter carrier in Edmond, Oklahoma, says he sees a big need for additional help across Oklahoma, especially during what’s considered peak season for deliveries. He says many people take time off in November and December, which can create issues if there are not enough people to cover shifts. 

“We’re begging for help, that’s how bad it is,” McComas says. 

Rick Vickrey, a rural letter carrier at the Minco, Oklahoma, post office, says he’s seen a shift in how people shop during the pandemic. Before Amazon started delivering its own packages s, he says he would have to make multiple trips.. He expects the online shopping trend will continue. 

“We anticipate … that's going to be the new future, that this is something that we can anticipate from now on,” Vickrey says. 

He says temporary carriers aren’t needed in his area because it’s a smaller office. Still, he thinks the postal service is vital for his community. 

“I have a lot of veterans on my route, that I deliver their meds from the VA six days a week,” Vickrey says. “It is critical that I continue to provide that service to my customers, because they depend on me every day."

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