Impact of COVID-19 on Sponsored Projects

This page is intended to serve as a resource for guidance related to the effect of COVID-19 preparations on federal awards and the sponsored project lifecycle. This includes FAQs created by ORSP to answer common questions specific to the University of Illinois, as well as links to guidance from other research focused organizations, such as COGR (Council on Government Relations), located in the External Links list at the bottom of this page.
Please check this site for additional information as it becomes available.

ORSP Frequently Asked Questions

Proposal Submission, Delays, or Missed Deadlines

  • Will ORSP be able to review and submit my proposal?

Yes, myProposals will be available for submission to ORSP. ORSP staff will continue to provide all of our current services across the lifecycle, remotely if not able to be on-sight.

  • If I have a proposal due and my institution closes, will the awarding agency still accept my application?

Per NIH: “A primary concern of NIH applicants is how to handle when an institution is closed due to natural disaster or other emergency situation. In these cases it is not necessary to get permission in advance for delays in grant application submissions. Instead, applications submitted late must include a cover letter indicating the reasons for the delay. The delay should not exceed the time period that the applicant organization is closed. Although NIH will often issue a Guide Notice reminding applicants of this policy during times of major emergencies, this policy will also apply to emergencies of a more limited or local nature not discussed in a separate NIH Guide Notice.”

Per NSF: Researchers or sponsored projects office staff from organizations that have been affected and are unable to meet stated NSF deadlines should contact the cognizant NSF program office to discuss the issue. NSF will consider extensions to the submission deadline on a case-by-case basis (and, in a few cases, on a program-by-program basis), understanding that it may be particularly difficult for individuals impacted to contact NSF. See NSF PAPPG Chapter I.F for additional information on procedures for submitting such requests.

ORSP will pass along other agency guidance as received

Travel Cancellation Costs

  • Are travel cancellation costs due to COVID-19 allowable as direct charges to sponsored projects?

Traditionally our practice has been to review for exceptions to charge cancellations fees. University Payables has issued guidance addressing travel reimbursements and COVID-19. NIH issued guidance which specifies that non-refundable grant-related travel costs and conference registration fees due to COVID-19 may be charged to NIH awards. Other cancellation fees will be handled in accordance with federal guidance once available.

  • How should credits or refunds from cancelled travel costs be handled on sponsored projects?

If a traveler has charged (e.g., through a travel advance) an airline ticket or other travel cost to a sponsored project, and then that trip is later cancelled, the credit must accrue to the sponsored project.

  • My USR or GSR funds were awarded for travel that was canceled.

Students should work with their faculty mentors to contact the dean’s office to arrange for refunds if their travel was canceled due to the University travel restrictions policy.

  • I am scheduled to host a conference paid by my grant. I have already incurred expenses associated with the conference prior to the conference being cancelled. Can I charge any conference expenses incurred to date to my award?

If the conference was cancelled due to travel restrictions or safety concerns related to COVID-19 you should inform the sponsor. NIH issued guidance which indicates non-refundable costs associated with NIH supported meetings and conferences affected by COVID-19 are allowable and may be requested as an administrative supplement. Other sponsor cancellation fees will be handled in accordance with additional guidance as it is provided.

Remote Work Environment

  • If employees are required to work from home will they still be able to get paid by grants?

If UIS employees are authorized to work remotely and if employees can work successfully in that environment, then their salary can continue to be paid. Consult with your HR manager for specifics

  • What happens if government employees are unavailable to perform their duties (e.g., issue prior approvals or process awards, amendments, issue payments?

We expect that funding agencies will put out guidance in the event these circumstances become likely. Contact ORSP if you experience this issue prior to agency guidance being released.

  • If a student or a researcher needs to access a data set from home in order to keep working on a project, how do we address privacy requirements, if the data set contains sensitive or private information?

If the researcher cannot obtain secure access to the data set (e.g., remote access via VPN or other means), then the data set should not be accessed. Researchers should work with ITS to explore whether a secure remote access option is viable for their project. If unsuccessful, researchers should document the amount of time they were unable to work on the data set for the purpose of any subsequent request for a no cost time extension

Project Progress Issues

  • What happens if the deliverables in my scope of work timeline cannot be met due to a slow down or gap in activities or if staff may need to work from home?

Clearly COVID-19 is an extraordinary circumstance. If the scope of work demands a precise schedule in order to make an experiment viable, and the investigator cannot meet the schedule, they should contact the sponsor immediately. Note that this applies to financial assistance awards; contracts requiring deliverables by a certain date may need to invoke their Force Majeure clause. If you are experiencing this issue on a contract, contact ORSP for assistance. The Governor’s Office of the State of Illinois has issued a memo regarding flexibilities.

  • Will agencies consider longer no cost time extensions if needed to finish a project after disruption?

Researchers should document the actual impact of COVID-19 on the progress of their grants to provide substantiation for any future no cost time extension request. It is not known at this time if agencies will consider longer-than-normal no cost time extensions, or multiple no-cost time extensions, in this situation. If not already exercised, ORSP has the authority to grant a first no-cost time extension up to 12 months in duration for most federal research grants.

  • I can’t get to my research site and my research will be severely impacted. Will the sponsor provide incremental funding and/or additional time so that I can successfully complete the aims of the award?

We expect federal agencies will recognize the difficulties inherent in this situation and work with institutions to facilitate the conduct of the project. As a reminder, recipients are required to (1) inform their program officer and grants officer if the need arises for additional Federal funds to complete the project (200.308.(c)(1)(viii)) and (2) federal agency notification is required as soon as “problems, delays, or adverse conditions which will materially impact the ability to meet the objective of the Federal award”(200.328.(d)(1)) is known. In the latter case, the notification must include a statement of the action taken or contemplated and any assistance needed to resolve the situation. It is possible that there will not be an answer yet on what is needed to resolve the situation; in that case, recipients should simply indicate that they will report back when more is known. If you find yourself in this situation, please contact ORSP.

  • I have an IRB protocol that needs to be reviewed. May I proceed with my research anyway?

In general, no, the activities covered under the protocol may not begin or continue, except as needed to safeguard the lives of the human subjects or the animals. Note that UIS IRB policy accommodates electronic communications and so we expect that IRB reviews will continue, though on a delayed basis. Please review the IRB webpage for updates on the status of your protocol.

  • I have research related to animals that need timely attention and am concerned that staff may not have the access they need to facilities if my institution closes.

The University is required to have animal care emergency plans in place as a condition to a federal award involving animal research. Consult ICCUA for questions about caring for your animals.

Salary Charges

  • If a researcher chooses to travel to a country with a CDC-level warning (e.g., to fulfill a grant responsibility such as present a paper or attend a meeting to discuss research) although the university has advised against travel to that country, can salary still be charged to the award, even if they need to stay in country longer than originally anticipated? Does it matter what level of CDC-level warning exists?

See the University COVID-19 FAQs for specifics.

  • Can salary continue to be charged if a researcher is on a multi-day self-isolation or self-quarantine period? Does it matter if the researcher is able to continue to work on the project from the self-isolation or self-quarantine site (e.g., home or designated facility) or is not able to work (e.g., because the work must be done in a wet lab or field site)?. Does it matter whether the self-isolation is self-imposed, institution-imposed, or government-imposed?

Contact HR for additional guidance on this situation. In general, we expect that salary treatment for sponsored travelers will be the same as for non-sponsored travelers (including whether or not vacation/sick time needs to be taken or if the university is providing some other form of paid leave in these circumstances).

  • If schools or elder-care facilities close, can award-funded employees stay at home to do child-care and elder-care and still charge their salary to a grant?

If an award funded employee stays home due to a school or facility closure for child or elder care needs, the employee’s salary would be charged in accordance with the University’s HR policy. Consult with your HR manager for specifics.

Student Technology, Arts & Research Symposium

  • Given the Illinois Governor’s order to shelter-in-place, will UIS still host STARS 2020?

Yes, STARS 2020 will still occur on the scheduled dates (April 16-17), but as an asynchronous online conference using the University’s Box.com account. Please see the STARS website for further details.

External Links

COGR FAQs regarding COVID-19s impact on federal awards

NIH guidance on flexibilities available to applicants and recipients…

NSF Notice to the Community regarding COVID-19

Illinois Governor’s Office of Management and Budget memo to state agencies regarding COVID-19 impact on grants.