TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — The United States Postal Service is hiring more than a thousand people to help process mail across Florida. But the new workers don’t start until Nov. 7 – four days after the general election.

Some elected leaders are now questioning the timing of the hires. That includes Florida Senator Darryl Rouson, a Democrat who represents District 19 which includes parts of Hillsborough and Pinellas counties.

“What would you like to see happen here?” asked investigative reporter Mahsa Saeidi.

“I’d like to see those workers put on right now,” said Sen. Rouson. “Why are we putting more emphasis on a Christmas holiday packaging?”

Sen. Rouson says his constituents are worried about vote-by-mail delays. He questions whether the USPS is prioritizing the holidays over the election.

“We should be listening to the electorate, to the population of people who are extremely upset and worried about whether or not their vote will count,” said Sen. Rouson.

The USPS said the more than 1,000 people they’re hiring will help process holiday mail. They’ll start less than a week after this year’s presidential election.

The USPS sent 8 On Your Side a statement which reads, in part: “The Postal Service has more than enough capacity, including collection boxes and processing equipment, to handle all election mail this year, which is predicted to amount to less than 2% of total mail volume from mid-September to Election Day.”

Mike Searle with the American Postal Workers Union in Tampa says his organization represents about 1,400 union members in the Tampa Bay area.

“In the week or so leading up to the election, people are going to end up working 10, 12 hours a day, some people will come in on…their days off,” he said.

Searle says while COVID-19 has made the absentee rate double what it normally is, he believes postal workers can meet election demand with simple overtime.

Still, not everyone believes the solution will be that easy with so much at stake.

“I want to urge people – vote early,” said Sen. Rouson. “This is the most important election in our lifetime.”

The USPS is advising you to request your mail ballot no later than 15 days before the election.

All parties agree that voting early is key.

If you have an election-related issue or concern, email investigator Mahsa Saeidi at MSaeidi@WFLA.com

Here’s the full statement from USPS:

In Florida and nationally, the Postal Service is committed to delivering Election Mail in a timely manner. We employ a robust and proven process to ensure proper handling of all Election Mail, including ballots. This includes close coordination and partnerships with election officials at the local and state levels. We recently posted this new fact sheet to clear up some misinformation we are seeing:

Specifically, please see this section:

1. The Postal Service has more than enough capacity to handle election mail volume.

The Postal Service is ready to handle whatever volume of election mail it receives. Postmaster General DeJoy’s number one priority is to deliver election mail on-time and within the Postal Service’s well-established standards. Effective October 1, he is committed to engage standby resources in all areas of Postal Service operations, including transportation, to satisfy any unforeseen demand.

To put it in context, the Postal Service delivers 433 million pieces of mail a day. Even if all Americans were to vote by mail this year, 330 million ballots over the course of the election would be only three-quarters of what the Postal Service delivers in one single day.

The Postal Service has more than enough capacity, including collection boxes and processing equipment, to handle all election mail this year, which is predicted to amount to less than 2% of total mail volume from mid-September to Election Day.

In addition, I refer you to Postmaster General Louis DeJoy’s testimony about the suspension of certain actions until after the November election.

And specifically,

“…To be clear, we will do everything we can to handle and deliver Election Mail in a manner consistent with the proven processes and procedures that we have relied on for years.  Nevertheless, I encourage all Americans who choose to vote by mail to request their ballots early and to vote early, as a common sense best practice.

As part of this conversation, there are many inaccuracies about my actions that I wish to again correct.

First, I did not direct the removal of blue collection boxes or the removal of mail processing equipment.

Second, I did not direct the cut back on hours at any of our post offices.

Finally, I did not direct the elimination or any cutback in overtime.

I did however suspend these practices, to remove any misperceptions about our commitment to delivering the nation’s election mail.

Any further assertions by the media or elected officials is furthering a false narrative to the American People….”

Also, please be reminded of our recommendations to those voters who choose to use the mail this Election Season:

“Customers who opt to vote through the U.S. Mail must understand their local jurisdiction’s requirements for timely submission of mail-in ballots. In order to allow sufficient time for voters to receive, complete and return ballots via the mail, and to facilitate timely receipt of completed ballots by election officials, the Postal Service strongly recommends that jurisdictions immediately communicate and advise voters to request ballots at the earliest point allowable but no later than 15 days prior to Election Day.  The Postal Service further recommends that domestic, non-military voters mail their ballots at least one week prior to Election Day to allow for timely receipt by election officials. The Postal Service also recommends that voters contact their local election officials for information about deadlines and other requirements.”