Federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) websites are more likely than not to be silent on how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting agency FOIA processing. A majority of federal FOIA websites – 62.6 percent – reviewed by the Office of Government Information Services (OGIS) in May and early June do not alert requesters to changes in agency FOIA processing caused by the shift to full-time teleworking.
Nearly 38 percent of FOIA websites – 37.4 percent – alert requesters to changes in their FOIA processing due to the COVID-19 pandemic, setting expectations that delays are likely. It is important to note that our review, conducted between May 15, 2020, and June 9, 2020, is a snapshot in time, and agencies may have updated their FOIA websites since we checked the sites. The Office of Information Policy (OIP) issued guidance in the midst of our review that encourages agencies to take several steps including “post[ing] notices on their FOIA websites … to inform requesters of any anticipated delays.” Read our mini assessment on the findings and download the spreadsheet of our findings. We plan to check FOIA websites again later this summer to see if more websites are informing requesters about COVID-19 delays.