MINOT, N.D. (KXNET) — USPS is battling challenges from staffing shortages to insufficient funds.

People in our state have repeatedly expressed concerns about the inconsistencies in receiving mail and many other issues they are having with the postal service. So, where is the mail, and what can we expect from USPS now that it’s the peak holiday season?

It’s no secret that the United States Postal Service has been on a downward spiral in rural communities for the last several months. Aside from rising gas prices, inflation, and busy seasons, USPS is also fighting against relevance. Most of the postal service’s income comes from postal product sales.

Since the postal service receives little taxpayer funding, except in extreme situations, it generates little to no revenue when people and businesses stop sending mail. Newer generations are shying away from paper mailing and are using virtual technology to send things like holiday cards, gifts, and invitations. And private companies have taken on heavier delivery loads, like Amazon.

“I guess I just never mail off anything so I don’t really ever use any kind of mailing service or anything like that,” said Kiera Maker, a Minot resident.

Even so, Minot and Bismarck are still short of USPS drivers to deliver the load they have now. In a conversation with a postal service worker, they told me their current work conditions have been grueling. No approved vacation or PTO, working six days a week every week, and receiving little to no help or guidance from higher-ups is normal to them.

Additionally, reporter Kyara Brown has repeatedly contacted USPS officials over the last six weeks for a comment about the mail problems in our state, and they have declined an interview repeatedly. On top of that, USPS is raising their rates and slowing down their first-class mail service on purpose, on things like letters, small packages, bills, and tax documents, to cut costs.

Since October 3 and until December 26 the postal service is raising prices on some products through a holiday season surcharge. 30 cents more for first-class package service, $1 more for parcel return services, and $5 more for priority mail and priority express mail. But even after the holiday season, postage rates are not going to return to what they used to be. The postal service announced in September, that it will now raise rates twice annually. Once in January and again in July.

Amy Kittredge, a Minot resident said, “I would expect it to be on time if I’m paying to have it shipped when it needs to be there. I feel like they shouldn’t be raising their prices then. Because its ridiculous to have to pay more if our stuff isn’t getting there any faster.

In a recent USPS press release, the postal service states it has completed the installation of 137 new package sorting machines ahead of the holiday mailing and shipping season. Which is supposed to help with the holiday mail and package influx, as well as help with recent delays. But some residents are not so confident the postal service will be able to deliver on its promises.

“I actually recently just sent an express mail and it got there about two days later than it was supposed to. And then it’s just been sitting in transit, it hasn’t moved,” said Kittredge.

“I live by, close to the old boy’s ranch. Yes, we’ve been getting but sometimes don’t get it, and then all of a sudden they’re piled up,” said Richard Calavera, a Ward County resident.

USPS recently released deadlines for holiday shipping. If you are shipping retail ground or first-class mail to somewhere in the U.S., it must be shipped out by December 17, to get to the destination by Christmas. Priority mail needs to be shipped out by December 19, and priority mail express by December 23. But residents say, if you’re shipping or receiving a package to or from a rural area, like ours in North Dakota, add a week cushion to those dates, just in case.

We are all sending a lot less mail than we used to, so they are making a lot less money than they used to. And workforce problems have heightened these issues. For months people have reported delays in receiving mail in both rural and suburban communities in our region. And as the peak season approaches, things don’t seem to be looking up anytime soon.

In Minot, residents have reported waiting in two-hour-long lines for answers about their delayed mail. The best way to track down a piece of mail or a package is online on the USPS website and make sure you get a tracking number.