By Alecia Reid

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — There are growing concerns about a slowdown in mail service just as the United States Postal Service is about to embark on its busiest season. The USPS says it needs a lot of new workers.

The holidays will be here before you know it, and the Postal Service is planning ahead. The start of their peak season is only a little over a month away. They’re now hiring aggressively.

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The United States Postal Service’s Spring Garden job fair brought out a number of applicants.

“Huge turnout, especially in the City of Philadelphia,” Danielle Candelora, with USPS’ human resources department, said. “We’ve had 150, 160 applicants.”

The help is sorely needed. Mail is currently being delivered, but some neighborhoods may notice a shift in the time of day those drop-offs happen.

“The carriers do take scheduled leave, but it’s very fluid,” Candelora said. “We move our carriers around so that we cover the mail. You may see it a little later than usual because they may be doing their route and then another little piece of overtime.”

This is one of the reasons mail carriers are at the top of the list, and people are ready to work.

“Once the pandemic hit, everything just became haywire,” Drew Gilliard of Northeast Philadelphia said. “You got unemployment giving out more than what jobs are paying at the time and different stuff like that, so now unemployment stop so people ain’t come back to work. They got the job openings. We need the jobs.”

By the end of the year, the USPS is looking to employ an additional 40,000 seasonal hires across the country.

The USPS’s $40-billion 10-year plan falls under Delivering for America, where the goal is to achieve financial sustainability and service excellence by meeting or exceeding 95% on-time service for mail and shipping.

For now, they are focusing on getting boots on the ground.

“We’re able to help them apply online and we’re also able to process them for fingerprinting to help speed up the process of them getting on board,” Candelora said.

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Not only is the USPS hiring, but there’s also a new sorting machine that’s expected to speed up the delivery of mail and letters this holiday.

This new machine at the Philadelphia regional processing and distribution center can sort packages 12 times faster than the manual method.

(Credit: CBS3)

“We’re looking at getting anywhere from 50,000 to 75,000 additional packages processed in a day, USPS Distribution Facility Plant Manager Roslyn Bowen said.

Between Thanksgiving and Christmas of last year, the USPS says workers handled 1.1 billion packages across the country. They were short-staffed, leading to piled-up mail and months-long wait for deliveries.

“We’re doing the best we can, and I think we’re getting past that, “Mildred Cortes with the USPS said.

This year, preparations started early.

“It’s working out good,” USPS employee Mike Gibson said.

“We’re ready for Christmas, we’re waiting for it,” Donya Cliett said.

This high-speed machine has been processing packages in the South Philly sorting facility 20 hours a day since August. In fact, USPS says nationally 92% of first-class mail was delivered on time in the first three weeks of October, a 3% increase over last year.

“It’s easier to process the mail,” Cliett said. “Like to get the mail through it, it’s just going up a hill and coming down, dropping into the bins. So therefore it processes a little bit faster than the other ones.”

The USPS is conducting job fairs across the tri-state area. Click here for more information.

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Here are the remaining job fairs in the area:

  • Oct 26 – Germantown Station, 5209 Greene St., Philadelphia PA 19144
  • Oct 26 – Morrisville Post Office, 950 W. Trenton Ave., Morrisville PA 19067
  • Oct 27 – North Philadelphia Station, 2601 N 16th St., Philadelphia PA 19132
  • Oct 27 – Fort Washington Post Office, 575 Pinetown Rd., Fort Washington PA 19034
  • Oct 28 – Torresdale Station, 10380 Drummond Ave., Philadelphia PA 19154
  • Oct 28 – Southampton Post Office, 1050 E. Street Rd., Southampton, PA 18966