Weekly COVID-19 Update: Paying Your Research Team, Phase 3 Reopening and More
07/22/2020, 12:55:01 PM
From the Vice President for Research at the University of Houston. View this message in browser.
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Dear Research Faculty,​​

The most important information available of relevance to research is the OMB Memorandum M-20-26, which affects how you can pay research staff and students on your federal awards if their ability to work on the award is affected by COVID-19. Please carefully read the section below about this ruling. New funding opportunities are coming out each week that address COVID-19 related issues, and I mention one of them below. I ask you to continue to be vigilant and follow the COVID-19 precautions of washing hands, wearing face coverings and keeping a safe distance to flatten the curve and keep our research open.

Funding Opportunities

The NIH issued a COVID-19 related funding opportunity, RFA-DK-20-021, Mechanistic Studies of the Interaction between SARS-CoV-2/COVID-19 and Diseases and Organ Systems of Interest to NIDDK (R01 Clinical Trial Optional). This is from the RFA: The purpose of this Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) is to support basic and clinical mechanistic research on Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) and Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) susceptibility, routes of infection, course of disease, morbidity and mortality in people with pre-existing diseases, or adverse acute or chronic outcomes in organs, tissues and biological systems of specific interest to NIDDK. These include diabetes and other metabolic diseases, obesity, and endocrine, digestive, liver, pancreas, kidney, urological, and hematologic tissues and diseases.

Delaying Phase 3

President Khator announced last week in town hall meetings that considering the COVID-19 situation in Houston, UH will delay the Phase 3 reopening until August 10.  This means UH will continue to be in Phase 2 where campus facilities are open to all faculty and staff on a voluntary basis.  If staff can perform their work from home, they should do so until further direction.

OMB Memo on Charging Salaries on Federal Grants

As I have communicated a few times now, the flexibility to charge the full salary and benefits of an employee whose effort on a federal grant is reduced due to COVID-19 will end on September 30 (OMB Memo M-20-26). The most important requirement that went into effect on June 18 when the Memorandum was published is that recipients are asked now, prior to September 30, to find other funding sources to pay salaries and benefits of those employees whose ability to work was curtailed due to COVID-19. Moving salaries and benefits of research staff and students off federal grants when they cannot perform the work will preserve funds for the ramp-up efforts. After September 30, salary and benefit payments cannot be charged on federal awards if work cannot be done due to COVID-19, even if no other funding sources are available.

The Memorandum asks agencies to implement the OMB guidance, and they have started to do so. The NSF has provided additional information on the Implementation of the OMB Memorandum and FAQs. The Memorandum asks recipients “to exhaust other available funding sources to sustain its workforce.” This means that “NSF recipients are responsible for making determinations on the availability of other funding sources […]. If the recipient determines that other funding sources are not available to sustain its workforce, the NSF award may be charged in accordance with OMB M-20-26.” The NIH’s Implementation of this Memorandum also emphasizes the importance of identifying other available funding sources to sustain its workforce.

Our office started to contact some of you to understand the impact of the end of this flexibility. If you think you are affected by or have questions about this memo, please contact Claudia Neuhauser, Associate VP for Research and Technology Transfer (cmneuhau@central.uh.edu).

UH Guidelines on COVID-19

I have mentioned in the past to check the UH COVID-19 pages frequently as they are regularly updated with new information. Specifically, if you or someone in your research group either exhibits symptoms or has been in close contact with someone who has been lab-confirmed or suspected/presumed to have COVID-19, check the website for the latest information on how to deal with the situation. UH follows CDC guidelines, which are also frequently updated.

VPR Virtual Office Hours

The next VPR Virtual Office Hours will be on Friday, August 7, at 11:30 a.m. (please note the time). You will be able to access the event through the Research & Innovation Teams site. I hope that you will join us next month.

Best regards,

Amr Elnashai, FREng  
Vice President for Research and Technology Transfer

Amr Elnashai | VP for Research and Technology Transfer | elnashai@uh.edu | 713-743-4736

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