Impact of COVID-19 virus on employee travel

From: Interim Vice President for Finance Ken Miller

Dear Faculty and Staff,

Virginia Tech continues to focus significant effort to mitigate public health issues, minimize individual impacts, and sustain our academic mission in light of the continuing spread of COVID-19 pandemic.  

The impact on business travel by university employees that was canceled or avoided due to COVID-19 is described below.

Employee Business Travel

The virus has impacted business travel (travel to conferences, professional development seminars, etc.) by university employees.  In response, the university is making adjustments to temporarily accommodate these changes to existing travel, defined as having been arranged prior to March 12, 2020, and to future travel.  This is in accordance with the communication to the university community by President Sands on March 11, 2020.

Existing Travel Not Charged to Federal or Other Grants and Contracts:

Travel arrangements made prior to March 12, 2020, are considered existing travel.  The university will make a temporary exception to the travel reimbursement policy to ensure the safety and wellbeing of university employees.  University employees may have incurred individual costs for transportation, lodging, conference registrations or other related expenses for a canceled program/activity or for a program/activity in which the individual or the program has determined it to be unsafe to participate.  In this instance, employees and departments should pursue refunds or credits from the service providers for any expenses for services which will not be used or conferences that may be canceled or not attended.  If, after pursuing refund or credit opportunities, the employee still has non-refunded personal expenses, the employee should request reimbursement of those expenses by the department through the regular travel reimbursement process.  Documentation of correspondence related to refunds and credits should be maintained and submitted with the reimbursement request.  Departments should reimburse those expenses net of refunds (excluding credits) even if the traveler did not use the purchased transportation or attend the conference, regardless of whether the conference took place.  The goal is to ensure travelers do not incur additional out-of-pocket costs.  However, credits should be used for future university business trips, not for personal travel.  The Controller’s Office will provide additional guidance on how to process travel reimbursements to denote that the travel did not actually occur as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.  This guidance will also include procedures to request additional exceptions to travel procedures, if needed.

Existing Travel Charged to Federal or Other Grants and Contracts:

Existing travel charged to Federal or Other Grants and Contracts will follow the same guidance provided above with the following additional information.  In order to be allowable, the traveler must document that they have requested and been denied a refund, and that documentation must be filed with the award file and available if questioned during an audit.  You must also track these transactions to allow for corrections in the event that funding agencies issue guidance that is contrary to this practice.  

All credits from canceled travel costs must be applied to the original sponsored project to which the original charge was posted.  

If there are questions that are not addressed by this memo regarding canceled travel please contact your post award associate.

As of March 13, 2020, specific federal guidance on this topic has not been provided.  

Future Employee Travel:

Until further notice, the university has issued a moratorium on all university-sponsored domestic and international travel.  The Governor has also issued a state of emergency and prohibited travel to other states by state employees.

The university understands that travel is often planned well in advance; therefore, after considering university guidance on travel, individuals and departments should carefully evaluate the risks of future travel planning.  Purchases should be timed to prioritize the evaluation of the safety of the travel location, the likelihood that the event will occur, and to generally minimize the risk of incurring expenses for services and events that may not be used or attended, even if doing so increases the cost of the travel.  Toward this end, refundable plane tickets and room cancellation policies should be considered for future travel.  If an individual or department chooses to purchase non-refundable transportation and lodging, the individual or department may assume the risk associated with canceled travel.   However, when purchasing a refundable ticket, a cost benefit analysis should be performed to ensure the additional costs of a refundable ticket does not exceed the amount that would be lost for a non-refundable ticket.

The university is working diligently to plan and keep our community informed. Continue to visit the university’s COVID-19 (Novel Coronavirus) web page for the latest university information and updates.

For clarification and assistance please contact the travel team in the Controller’s Office for assistance.

Sincerely,

Ken Miller

Interim Vice President for Finance