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The Postal Service expects holiday customer traffic to increase beginning Dec. 7, with the season’s busiest period for mailing, shipping and deliveries occurring Dec. 14-21.

The organization released the expectations last week, noting that more gifts are expected to be sent through the mail this year as families and friends hold virtual get-togethers instead of opening presents in person. However, while significant volume increases are expected, precise predictions are difficult due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Generally, online shopping sales in November and December are expected to reach $189 billion, up 33 percent compared with one year ago, according to the Adobe Analytics research firm.

“The holiday shopping season is starting earlier than ever this year, and we expect record online sales as many consumers opt to shop online to avoid stores because of the unknowns around COVID-19,” said John Copeland, the firm’s marketing and customer insights vice president.

To help handle shipping increases, USPS is hiring seasonal workers where needed, and technology has been expanded to improve package tracking throughout the postal processing and transportation networks.

Additionally, beginning Nov. 29, the organization will expand Sunday deliveries to locations with high volumes. Mail carriers will also deliver packages for an additional fee on Christmas Day in select locations.

To further assist with timely processing and deliveries, the Postal Service is encouraging customers to send their holiday cards and gifts early.

“We thank our customers for their continued support, and we are committed to making sure gifts and cards are delivered on time to celebrate the holidays,” the Postal Service’s statement read.

The Nov. 19 news release, available on the USPS Newsroom website, also includes recommended shipping deadlines.

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It’s open

A newly updated video reminds Postal Service employees of the importance of the open season benefits enrollment period.

The two-minute video, 2020 Open Season,” notes that employees’ circumstances may change from year to year.

For example, some employees may want to add a dependent to their plan, while other workers may determine they no longer need a family plan and want to consider another option.

The video also explains that employees can go to the Open Season LiteBlue page to review their health plan options.

Changes to health plans can be made through PostalEASE, which is accessible through LiteBlue, Blue and the self-serve kiosks available in some USPS facilities.

Open season, the annual period when employees can make changes to their benefits, ends Dec. 14.