Freedom of Information Act: Selected Agencies Adapted to the COVID-19 Pandemic but Face Ongoing Challenges and Backlogs

Freedom of Information Act: Selected Agencies Adapted to the COVID-19 Pandemic but Face Ongoing Challenges and Backlogs

Freedom of Information Act: Selected Agencies Adapted to the COVID-19 Pandemic but Face Ongoing Challenges and Backlogs

The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) allows the public to request access to government information. During the pandemic, agencies received and processed fewer FOIA requests, but backlogs continued growing.

Several agencies we reviewed told us they encountered initial challenges once employees moved to full-time telework, because, for example, it was harder to get mailed requests or access paper records.

The agencies also said that lawsuits—which requesters may file if agencies don't meet FOIA response deadlines—were a growing challenge even before the pandemic.

Our recommendations could help the agencies address backlogs and other challenges.

FOIA Lawsuits Received in Federal District Courts, 2012 through 2020