COVID-19

Provided by The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press
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Introduction

In early 2020, the work of numerous federal agencies was disrupted due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Most federal agencies enacted liberal work from home policies, complicating FOIA offices' responses to requests and litigation. Disruptions have been especially prominent with agencies that work on classified systems.

Effect of COVID-19 on Federal Agencies' FOIA Processes

The response and status of individual agencies is presented in the sortable chart below.

Agency/Entity Summary of Status/Measures being taken Source/Additional Resources Last updated
Federal Bureau of Investigation At the outbreak of the pandemic, the FBI shut down its E-FOIA portal and represented that its records division would be closed through at least until April 13, 2020. As of April 14, 2020, FBI is accepting electronic requests through its online portal, but their records division suspended operations through April. As of May 6, the FBI records management division is once again active but experiencing significant delays in processing FOIA requests.
Department of State FOIA operations are "suspend[ed]" "until further notice." "We currently estimate that there is a 96% reduction in ability to process FOIA requests . . . ."
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention The CDC's FOIA office is open but teleworking. The agency's website advises that it "will not be able to receive FOIA requests/correspondence by mail or FedEx. If possible, requesters should provide an email address for a final response. Here are five (5) ways to submit a FOIA request:

1. Submit a FOIA request via an online request form (https://www.cdc.gov/od/foia/request/index.htm)

2. Email a FOIA request: FOIARequests@cdc.gov

3. Fax a FOIA request: 404-235-1852

4. Submit a request via PAL: FOIA Public Access Link (PAL) (FOIA Public Access Link (PAL))

5. Submit a request via FOIA.gov (https://www.foia.gov/)"

Legal Issues and Challenges

Timing of Responses to Requests

Litigation Deadlines

External Sources/Additional Reading