Expense, Travel and Equipment FAQs in response to COVID-19

covidAs the campus has moved to remote working, the Controller's office has received inquiries regarding the necessary steps and processes related to expenses, equipment and travel. Below are the FAQs that have been raised to date related to the University's response to COVID-19. 

If you do not see an answer to your question, please feel free to contact Frank Sousa, Controller, at frsousa [at] umass.edu.

Is there a central budget that will be utilized to cover costs that have been incurred as they relate to COVID-19 and the transition to remote working?

Departments are individually responsible for covering costs related to working remotely due to COVID-19. Any costs incurred should be approved through the respective Dean’s or Vice Chancellor’s office.   Furthermore, class code "CVD19" should be used on any non-research related transactions greater than $100 related to added costs due to COVID-19.

The class code can be added ad hoc in BuyWays by entering it in the class field on the accounting information after entering your speedtype:

Manually add class code in Buyways

Or on the Procard reallocation page after entering the speedtype:

Manually add class code to Procard Reallocation

If you have a frequently used speedtype to which you would like to have "CVD19" added, please work directly with Joanne Wheeler in the Controller's office, her email address is wheeler [at] admin.umass.edu (subject: CVD19%20class%20code) .  The class code will be used to help the campus for reporting processes as the relate to costs associated with the pandemic.

If you have already incurred costs related to the pandemic that have not been allocated to the "CVD19" class code, future communications will be forthcoming to detail the steps to allocate those expenses after the fact.  Please collect and keep track of details related to COVID-19 costs not being captured with “CVD19” class code.  

Will my grant cover incremental costs incurred relating to COVID-19?

The answer to this question will vary based on the circumstances of the grant and the expense. The best course of action to ensure grant compliance is to connect with your grant sponsor to ensure that it can be covered. The grant accountants in the Controller’s office are available to assist in these circumstances.  Additionally, COGR has posted a matrix which details allowable expenses for many of the major federal agencies which can be accessed here.

Currently, the campus does not have a requirement to utilize the "CVD19" class code for COVID-19 related expenses on grants.

What are the appropriate avenues to purchase goods needed in response to COVID-19?

Consistent with existing Campus policy, where possible, start with BuyWays to purchase items. BuyWays will often have the lowest prices, as many costs are pre-negotiated with vendors. Additionally, BuyWays helps to ensure that assets and costs are being tracked appropriately. If the vendor(s) that you are working with is not available in BuyWays, please use your Procard to make the purchase. When using a Procard, please be sure to reallocate the charges to the appropriate account code within 30 days. Please note that all charges with Procard are automatically applied to the "742992 Purchase Card" code. Reallocation is very important to ensure compliance with grant requirements, budget tracking, as well as for asset management purposes. See question below for sales tax considerations with regards to purchases made with the Procard.

Will I be reimbursed for sales tax incurred on a purchase made?

The University is classified as an exempt purchaser and is therefore exempt from sales taxes for all tangible property or services. The sales tax exemption number for the University is 04-3167352. Utilizing BuyWays for your purchases will ensure that you do not incur sales tax.

If you are unable to use BuyWays for your purchase, then please use your Procard. In order to ensure your purchase with your Procard is completed without being charged sales tax, you must provide the vendor with the University tax exemption number at the time of the transaction. If you are charged tax, you are required to request a credit from the vendor as soon as the error is discovered, and coordinate with the vendor until the credit is received as the University does not reimburse for sales tax.

See more Bank Card (formerly known as Procard) FAQs on UPST.

In order to practice social distancing, I would like to have my items shipped to my personal address as opposed to campus, is this allowable?

Purchases that have been approved by your department may be routed to a personal address, but the requisition must additionally be approved by the Controller (frsousa [at] umass.edu) prior to placing the order. If possible, all such purchases are to be made through BuyWays. If the vendor that you are 

working with is not available through BuyWays, then a Procard should be used. When using BuyWays, a PDF of the approval email is encouraged to be added as an “internal attachment” to expedite approval.  This PDF can also be added to the expense report if purchased with a Procard.

When seeking Controller approval for home delivery, departments should look to aggregate approval requests to cover all necessary purchases for the department as a whole and to discourage multiple separate purchases by individual employees across the same department. This will expedite the approval processes and better help to ensure campus protocols are being adhered to. Please note that separate BuyWays requisitions are required for each mailing destination.

I require a computer/laptop or computer peripherals to effectively work from home, what steps do I need to take to obtain these items?

If an individual needs a computer or laptop for their home, you should contact your respective IT department for approval to secure one.  Individuals should not be purchasing them on their own and seeking reimbursement without working with IT.  If a purchase is necessary, upon approval of IT and the department, it should be processed through BuyWays.

If approved by your department, computer peripherals and accessories such as monitors, webcams, earphones, docking stations etc. are additionally all to be purchased through BuyWays. If the vendor for your products is not in BuyWays, then the products can be purchased with your Procard. Purchases may be routed to the home but should be approved by the Controller prior to placing the order. See additional FAQ above regarding shipping items to a personal address.

If I do not currently have internet services at home, or my current internet service is insufficient to allow me to work from home effectively, are incremental costs associated with obtaining/enhancing internet access reimbursable?

Costs associated with internet access with the service provider(s) in your area are not reimbursable per existing University policy. However, alternatives do exist, so if you are unable to effectively work from home due to limited internet capability, please work with your IT unit to secure such capability through alternate means.

My campus sponsored travel plans have changed, are the costs incurred reimbursable?

The University will reimburse individuals for out of pocket travel expenses that were incurred if your travel plans have been cancelled due to COVID-19 restrictions.  If vouchers are available for business or personal travel, it is the responsibility of the individual and department to track this at their level. 

Many airlines are not charging cancellation fees for travel that was cancelled due to COVID-19. If you are charged a fee, please work with the airline to seek reimbursement. For any fees not reimbursed by the airlines, the University will provide reimbursement, but not the cost of the ticket if the employee takes the credit for personal use.  If the employee travels for future business, the expense report for that trip will reflect the credit.

How do I track my expenses associated with cancelled travel?

Account code 726160 has been created for the purpose of tracking and reporting travel cancellation fees related to COVID-19. Please use this account code when submitting expense reports.

Account number to use for Travel Cancellation Fees

Visit Guidance for Travel-Coronavirus for further details on the travel cancellation reimbursement process and guidelines specific to the Amherst campus.

Visit UMass Amherst Response to COVID-19

Visit UMass Amherst Response to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) for resources and updates on the University's COVID-19 response. This site provides the latest campus news and comprehensive information.