As the University continues to address the impact of COVID-19, Sponsored Programs has prepared guidance for project directors to address considerations for externally-sponsored project awards. Along with you, we will continue to monitor the University’s plans and will update this guidance as changes become necessary.
Employee Effort and Remote Work
Employees funded on sponsored projects may work remotely using the same procedures as other University employees. However, for some awards, options for remote work may be limited. Work that involves hosted group events or research that requires a lab environment, for example, may be difficult or impossible to continue as planned. Temporary disruptions in work are not expected to have a significant impact on sponsored project awards, and as long as effort during the reporting period will be the same as committed, no action is necessary. If the effort of any key personnel will decrease by 25% or more or will cease for a period of three months or more, we are required to notify the sponsoring agency and adjust personnel charges accordingly. Please contact Sponsored Programs if you anticipate significant personnel changes that may require sponsor approval so that we can provide guidance based on the unique requirements of the specific award.
For employees who are ill and on sick leave, effort can be charged to a sponsored project award in accordance with the approved budgeted effort. Sick leave costs are allowable in this situation in the same way they are for other illnesses and do not require sponsor approval except in the case of long-term absences.
In situations where students can work on sponsored projects remotely, they are permitted to do so. Project directors are encouraged to maximize the remote work of students and are expected to monitor student work. While the University will allow student employees to be paid for scheduled hours not worked in some situations through March 30, this approach does not apply to student workers paid on sponsored projects. Because hours not worked are not allocable to sponsored project awards, such pay is allowable only on unrestricted funds and will need to allocated to the project director’s department operating budget or other funding within the department.
All employee travel is subject to the University’s restrictions, which may change as the COVID-19 situation progresses. As outlined by Finance on March 18, 2020, employees who have incurred expenses for cancelled travel are expected to seek refunds for those expenses. If refunds are not possible, the employee may follow the normal process for submitting a travel voucher, but must attach documentation for the unsuccessful refund attempt. Expenses for travel that does not occur is not generally allowable on sponsored project awards. In this situation, though, we anticipate that some agencies will approve exceptions. If an employee needs to allocate expenses for cancelled travel to a sponsored project award, sponsor approval for the expenses must also be attached to the travel voucher.
Changes in Scope
For some projects, the cancellation of travel or the hosting of events may impact the ability to successfully fulfill the scope of a sponsored project award. In these cases, the University is obligated to notify the sponsoring agency and request approval for changes in the project’s scope. Please contact Sponsored Programs if you determine that a change in scope needs to be requested so that we can review the specific requirements for your award and provide guidance. In addition, significant delays in meeting award objectives should be communicated to the program officer at the sponsoring agency. For some awards, we can request a no-cost extension to the project period.
Allowable expenses on a sponsored project award are determined based on the approved budget for the award. At this time, there are no restrictions for spending in accordance with approved budgets. However, project directors are responsible for ensuring that expenses are incurred only for activities that will occur during the award period. Funds allocated for cancelled activities should not be spent for other purposes without a budget revision and sponsor approval.
While University purchases now require approval at the Vice President level, this approval is not required for purchases on sponsored project awards. Approval for spending on sponsored project accounts will continue to be handled in the normal way.
Published on March 19, 2020