Federal Institutional/Agency Responses to COVID-19

Mar 11, 2020, 12:46 PM by Melodi Moore

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UTMB investigators should always consider their pre-award analyst the first and best point of contact for questions regarding federal funding.  Sometimes, however, investigators may not have instant availability to the Office of Sponsored Projects and will have questions that need answers.  The following are responses from Federal Agencies and Institutes on how to handle federal funding during the emergency response related to COVID-19.

OMB
OMB is allowing Federal agencies to grant class exceptions in instances where the agency has determined that the purpose of the Federal awards is to support the continued research and services necessary to carry out the emergency response related to COVID-19. Further, agencies are reminded of their existing flexibility to issue exceptions on a case-by-case basis in accordance with 2 CFR § 200.102, Exceptions. The Administration will evaluate if these flexibilities should be extended to recipients whose operations have been adversely impacted in the emergency response related to COVID-19 at a later date.


NIH
In emergency situations, the NIH’s immediate concern is for the health and safety of people and animals in the programs we oversee. NIH is also deeply concerned about the health of the biomedical enterprise in the affected area, and we are committed to working with researchers and institutions to do everything possible to ensure that NIH-funded research continues.  The NIH Extramural Response to Natural Disasters and Other Emergencies website is the established resource for the entire biomedical research community.  This is where the latest notices, guidance and links will be posted.  For your convenience, the latest NIH notices are summarized  below:

NOT-OD-20-082 - NIH LATE APPLICATION POLICY
When delays occur because the applicant or recipient organization is officially closed or unable to submit grant applications due to the effects of COVID-19, the NIH will consider accepting applications late, on a case-by-case basis, in accordance with the NIH Grants Policy Statement, Section 2.3.9, under the following circumstances:

  • Institutions must submit applications or reports as soon as possible after reopening or resuming operations so that grant applications can be submitted, not to exceed the number of days the institution was officially closed or unable to submit grant applications.
  • Institutions must submit a cover letter with the applications with enough detail about the delay so that NIH staff can make a determination whether circumstances justify accepting the application late.
    Institutions need not request advance permission to submit late due to this declared emergency.
  • NIH will be issuing additional guidance related to this public health emergency in the near future.

NOT-OD-20-083
FAQs:  Proposal Submission and Award Management Related to COVID-19

Q:     Because of furloughs or quarantine, I am unable to submit financial or progress reports.  What are my options?
A:      If recipients are unable to complete and submit a progress report ((Research Performance Progress Reports (RPPR)), Financial reports (Federal Financial Report expenditure data), and/or invention report by the scheduled due date, they should promptly contact the assigned grants management and/or program official. Although NIH will accept these late reports, grant awards will be delayed until the required reports are submitted and accepted by NIH.

Q:    I am quarantined for a period of time. There is a NIH proposal deadline during my quarantine period and some essential materials I need are in my office. Can I receive an extension to the deadline?
A:    The NIH will consider accepting applications late, on a case-by-case basis.  Recipients must submit a cover letter with the application, outlining the fact that the institution is closed due to affects of COVID19 so that NIH staff can document the delay.  Recipients do not need to request advance permission to submit late due to a public health emergency-related delay.

Q:     My university has asked staff to stay home for an undetermined period of time. How would I petition for an extension of an application deadline?
A:      When delays occur because the applicant or recipient organization is officially closed due to a natural disaster or other emergency or because designated PD/PI(s) or other key staff is/are quarantined or involuntarily unable to come to their work locations, the NIH will consider accepting applications late, on a case-by-case basis, under the following circumstances:

  • Recipients must submit applications or reports as soon as possible after reopening or end-of-quarantine, not to exceed the number of days the institution was officially closed or the key staff including but not limited to the PD/PI was quarantined.
  • Recipients must submit a cover letter with the application, with enough detail about the delay so that NIH staff can make a determination whether circumstances justify accepting the application late.
  • Recipients need not request advance permission to submit late due to a disaster/emergency-related delay.

Q:      I have a NIH-funded Conference or Travel award, but the meeting has been canceled. Who do I contact regarding the impact to the NIH award?
A:     Contact the cognizant NIH grants management official named in the Notice of Award to alert them of the situation. Feel free to copy the program official to make sure that all appropriate IC staff are aware of the circumstances. In light of the public health threat, you may wish to consider alternate plans, such as providing or using options for virtual participation.

Q:   A conference has been canceled, but I have nonrefundable travel, registration, and/or hotel costs. Can these be charged to a NIH Conference or Travel grant?
A:   NIH is currently working internally as well as with our federal partners on a number of proposal and award-related issues pertaining to COVID-19. NIH will communicate with the community about these issues and will provide guidance as further information becomes available. In the meantime, please continue to follow all relevant policies and procedures, including those of your organization, and apply those practices consistently.

Q:    I am involved with a Conference or Travel award for a meeting that is taking place in the coming weeks. Should I continue with plans for the meeting?
A:    NIH recommends first reaching out to the conference organizer or host. They are best equipped to understand the guidance at the location of the event. They may recommend having contingency plans if the event is ultimately cancelled or re-located, or might be planning to provide options for virtual participation. If you are the organizer, you may wish to consider developing contingency plans. NIH also suggests checking the State Department Travel Advisories website if the conference involves foreign travel.

Q:     I am considering submitting a Conference or Travel proposal to NIH for a future meeting. The site of the meeting has not yet been selected; should I take into account COVID-19 in conference planning and site selection?
A:     Travel logistics, accessibility, and health and safety considerations of the participants should always be a foremost consideration in any Conference proposal. Since the COVID-19 threat is still evolving, it is important to consider flexibility and alternative plans in a proposal to support travel or a conference. For foreign travel, you should consult the State Department Travel Advisories website.

Q:    My NIH grant involves an exchange of researchers (including students) and/or other foreign travel. Should I continue with plans?
A:      Travel logistics, accessibility, and health and safety considerations of the participants in an active research project should always be a foremost consideration. NIH recommends consulting with your organization about its policies and procedures. You may consider approaching the planned researcher exchanges and/or other foreign travel with flexibility, and/or devising alternate plans including virtual participation as appropriate. As noted above, NIH understands that plans for active research projects may be disrupted, to the point of needing extensions on the original award durations. For foreign travel, you should consult the State Department Travel Advisories website.

Q:    I have plans to attend a large scientific gathering. Should I continue?
A:    NIH recommends first consulting with your organization about its policies and practices. In addition, you may consider reaching out to the organizer or host of the scientific gathering. They are best equipped to understand the guidance at the location of the event. They may have contingency plans if the event is ultimately canceled or re-located, or they might be planning to provide options for virtual participation. We also suggest checking the State Department Travel Advisories website if the gathering involves foreign travel.

Q:    I have concerns about traveling to a peer review panel at NIH. What should I do?
A:    Contact the cognizant NIH Scientific Review Officer (SRO) as soon as practicable. NIH will be flexible about accommodating virtual participation.

Q:    I have already booked my travel and accommodations. Will NIH reimburse me for these costs?
A:    NIH is currently working internally as well as with our federal partners on a number of proposal and award-related issues pertaining to COVID-19. NIH will communicate with the community about this issue and will provide guidance as further information becomes available.


NSF
 The latest information from the National Science Foundation was address in the March 4 FAQs about the Coronavirus.  This notice includes guidance for COVID-19 rapid submissions, award management, travel and logistical support, foreign relations and much more.