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Governor Whitmer signs Executive Order protecting workers handling FOIA requests

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Posted at 9:41 PM, Apr 05, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-05 21:41:46-04

LANSING, Mich. — The office of Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced Sunday evening that Governor Whitmer has signed Executive Order 2020-38, which relaxes requirements for responding to Free of Information Act (FOIA) requests made by mail or fax during the COVID-19 emergency. This action will protect workers who handle FOIA requests by allowing public bodies to defer portions of requests that would require workers to report to work in-person.

The Executive Order takes effect immediately and ends at 11:59 p.m. on June 4, 2020.

“During a time of crisis, it’s crucial that Michiganders have access to the information they need to stay safe. My administration is committed to ensuring that while also protecting public health and encouraging social distancing,” Governor Whitmer said. “This Executive Order encourages public bodies to respond to Freedom of Information Act requests in a timely manner and in the safest way possible.”

Under the Executive Order, a public body must respond to a request received at its physical office via U.S. mail or fax within 10 business days after an employee receives and views the request. If a request requires a search of physical records, it will be deferred until after the state of emergency and disaster declared in Executive Order 2020-33 is lifted.

The Executive Order also requires public bodies to communicate in writing with the person filing the request if they are unable to fulfill the request without a search of physical public records.

The person filing the request has the option to amend their request to include electronic records only. If a public body is unable to fulfill a request in the timeframe they specified because of remote work and social distancing, then a written notice must be sent to the person filing the request to explain why there is a delay.

Information around this outbreak is changing rapidly. The latest information is available at Michigan.gov/Coronavirus.