Federal Funding Opportunities

Posted on May 11, 2020. Note that some information or advice may have changed since posting.

Dear Colleagues,

The Washington Office and the research development office on campus have been gathering quite a bit of information about federal funding opportunities for both the stimulus packages and for the next federal fiscal year.  I thought it might be timely to pass along an update about the federal funding landscape. 

Funding for "Non-Beneficial" Expenditures

Earlier this year, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) provided guidance to Federal agencies that allows flexibility in administering grants and cooperative agreements during the pandemic. Institutions can continue charging salaries to grants and cooperative agreements for "non-beneficial" work if this is consistent with how the institution is supporting other personnel. Currently, Notre Dame is providing salary continuation for all staff so such charges are allowed on federal grants. The federal guidance applies to grants and cooperative agreements that were active on March 19, 2020.  The OMB will revisit this guidance in 90 days.  OMB guidance is a little softer for federally funded contracts so we urge you and your local Grants Program Manager to stay in touch with your sponsor program manager if your funding is designated as a contract. We will keep you informed of new federal guidance when it is published. We are also posting relevant information on the research continuity web site

Our federal relations staff in Washington report that there is significant discussion of providing funding in the future stimulus package currently referred to as CARES 2.0 that would allow supplements to your grants, cooperative agreements and contracts to cover the costs of non-beneficial charges in order to keep your research budget whole. The federal relations staff are optimistic that this type of funding will happen as they believe there is bipartisan support. However, CARES 2.0 is still in development and discussions of the bill are dominated by some major political issues related to support for states and localities. We don't expect clarity on these supplements until mid-summer. In the meantime, we have set up accounting procedures to track these expenditures.  In the next week or so, you will be asked by our research administration staff to provide information about the “beneficial/non-beneficial” status of your research programs and associated personnel.  I encourage you to provide this information to support assessment of the coronavirus impact, to help document any delays, and to support future requests for supplemental funding.

Stimulus Funding for COVID-19 Related Research

Almost $10B was included in the first two stimulus bills for COVID-19 related research, including for economic, social and behavioral research. The third stimulus bill, referred to as the CARES Act, included $25B for testing, of which approximately $11B was designated to federal agencies. Agencies are just now releasing calls for proposals. Those involved in diagnostic research should be particularly mindful of opportunities from this stimulus bill.

In addition to the potential for supplements in the future CARES 2.0, there is also discussion of significant additional research funding. The Washington Office notes in particular that there is expected to be significant funding in this stimulus bill for economic, social and behavioral research and for additional funding for new awards for COVID-19 research at NIH. 

The Research Development Working Group is doing an excellent job of tracking COVID-19 funding opportunities (75 at federal agencies at last check). Their worksheet is continuously updated and is available at COVID-19 Funding opportunities worksheet.

FY21 Federal Budgets

According to the Federal Relations staff, the FY21 budget levels for the appropriations bills that include federal research funding for next year had been negotiated prior to the coronavirus pandemic. The funding levels that were proposed were generally increases compared to this year. They hear that these budget levels are largely unchanged despite the COVID-19 crisis. They advise that there is pretty strong bipartisan support for keeping the research base across all sectors strong. If they are correct, we can expect healthy research budgets next year at all agencies and for all of the national priorities that were funded this year. 

I hope this information is useful. If you have questions, please feel free to contact me, Laura McAleer in the Washington Office or Liz Rulli in Notre Dame Research Administration.

Sincerely,

Bob Bernhard
 
Robert J. Bernhard
Vice President for Research
University of Notre Dame
Notre Dame, Indiana 46556