Campus Guidance: Implementation of Flexibilities under OMB M-20-26

On April 2, 2020, UC President Napolitano issued guidance that there would be no COVID-19 related layoffs for all career employees through the fiscal year ending on June 30, 2020. This consistent UC-wide policy enabled UC campuses to use the flexibilities outlined in OMB M-20-17 to continue to charge project personnel salaries and benefits to currently active federal awards despite the unexpected or extraordinary circumstances created by the COVID-19.

When M-20-17 expired on June 17, 2020, the Office of Management Budget (OMB) issued memo M-20-26 on June 18, 2020 providing an “Extension of Administrative Relief for Recipients and Applicants of Federal Financial Assistance Directly Impacted by the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) due to Loss of Operations” through September 30, 2020.

M-20-26 extends the flexibility to continue to charge salaries and benefits of project personnel to federal awards impacted by COVID-19, but only under certain conditions:

  1. The Federal recipient must have a consistent policy of paying salaries (under unexpected or extraordinary circumstances) from all funding sources, Federal and non-Federal.
  2. The Federal recipient must exhaust other available funding sources to sustain its workforce.
  3. The Federal recipient must implement necessary steps to save overall operational costs before charging project personnel salaries and benefits to currently active Federal awards.

The UC Office of the President has directed UC campuses that wish to exercise the flexibilities provided by M-20-26 to:

  1. Consider other ways to meet the consistency requirement, including with the implementation of local policies and procedures ways, including the implementation of local policies and procedures.
  2. Develop and maintain documentation of cost-cutting measures to reduce overall operational costs.
  3. Document campus-wide efforts to exhaust other funding sources to sustain its workforce.

Accordingly, UC Berkeley’s policy on charging involuntary downtime to federal awards through September 30, 2020 is as follows:

  1. Principal investigators (PIs) should make arrangements for remote and/or alternative work for personnel on federal awards whenever possible.  Remote/alternative work assignments that support the Statement of Work (SOW) of the federal award are allowable costs. However, if such arrangements affect the project’s scope of work, PIs should contact the campus Sponsored Projects Office.
  2. If such remote/alternative work arrangements cannot be accommodated, PIs may continue to pay salary and benefit costs related to involuntary downtime of University personnel to sustain federally funded research programs, laboratories etc. under unexpected or extraordinary circumstances provided that:
    1. The PI uses alternate sources of campus funding, when available, prior to charging salary and benefit costs related to involuntary downtime to federal awards.
    2. Documents and maintain records of the following in accordance with § 200.333 of the Uniform Guidance:
      1. The reason remote/alternative work on the project could not be accommodated.
      2. The effort that was made to reduce the federal project’s operational costs to save overall operational costs in order to preserve federal funds for the ramp-up effort.
      3. Other available sources of campus funding were exhausted before salary and benefit costs related to involuntary downtime were charged to federal awards.
  3. PIs that are not able to meet these conditions should not charge involuntary downtime to federal awards through September 30, 2020 and should transfer such charges, if made, to other non-federal funding sources.

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