COVID-19: Research FAQ

General Questions

I am going to run out of work for the funding contingent research NTTF in my lab. What do I do?

Please continue to be as creative as possible to identify grant-related work that research NTTF can perform at home. This may include working with your funder to revise the scope and nature of your grant activities so that progress toward the grant aims can continue. We realize, however, that identifying grant-related work for a research NTTF may not be possible in every case. Under normal circumstances, when there is no grant-related work that can be performed, grant funds would not be available to spend on staffing. In response to the pandemic, however, most funding agencies have announced administrative flexibilities allowing continued spending of grant funds on staff who cannot work, provided such a policy is consistently applied across all funding sources. Therefore, we are adapting a program that is now in place for other OA and SEIU employee groups and making it available to funding contingent 12-month research faculty. The program is as follows:

If there is no work that a funding contingent 12-month research NTTF member can perform given the current executive orders, and therefore a lack of funding for that research NTTF member’s appointment, supervisors must provide 30-days' notice to that employee. After the 30-day notice period, employees can choose to be laid off or they can choose to participate in the university's new extended benefits program. The extended benefits program puts employees on leave without pay (LWOP) until August 31, 2020, which may allow them to collect unemployment. During the LWOP period, if the employee is eligible for health insurance, the university will continue to pay its portion of the employee’s health insurance through grant or other PI or unit-level funds. Employees on LWOP will still need to pay their 5% portion of health insurance premiums. Research units are required to contact OVPRI and HR Employee and Labor Relations (ELR) for prior approval before giving research NTTF 30 days’ notice. OVPRI and ELR will work with research units to provide the impacted employee with an election form allowing them to choose between a layoff or LWOP. The extended benefits program is available to funding contingent faculty who are up for renewal and would have been renewed but for the impacts of COVID-19. Faculty who meet these criteria should have their contracts renewed through the length of the anticipated funding in light of the new federal flexibility, which in most instances is August 31, 2020.

Please note that the extended benefits program does not apply to people who would have been non-renewed for non-COVID 19 related reasons. The usual conditions apply in these cases and extended benefits program is not available to them. For information about non-renewals for funding contingent faculty, please review Article 16, Section 1 of the United Academics collective bargaining agreement. In general, funding contingent faculty should receive reasonable notice of non-renewal. Promoted funding contingent faculty must receive thirty days’ notice prior to non-renewal.

Do I need approval before providing notice to a RF?

Yes, you need approval from OVPRI and Employee and Labor Relations. Please email vpri@uoregon.edu and uoelr@uoregon.edu to obtain that approval. The goal will be to turn around approvals within 7 days.

Can I do a partial reduction of FTE?

Yes. You must still seek prior approval and, if this is a COVID-19 related reduction in FTE, consult with ELR and VPRI about any notice obligations. In addition, note that due to changes at PEBB, all employees will continue to be health insurance eligible through the end of October, even if their FTE is reduced below .5 FTE, if they were eligible for health insurance prior to the FTE reduction.

What if the faculty member is on an H1B visa?

Federal law restricts our ability to make changes to the duties, location of work, hours, or pay for employees on H1B visas. If the RF is on an H1B, please note that in your email to vpri@uoregon.edu and uoelr@uoregon.edu to ensure that we can take appropriate action consistent with federal requirements.

Extended Benefits Program

Yes, these costs are generally allowable on sponsored projects, and will be charged consistently across funding sources. Some sponsors may require prior approval for these costs. Please contact SPS to determine if you need prior approval and address any questions regarding allowability.

Will the grants have to pay any unemployment benefits that an employee receives?

Yes. The university is obligated to pay the direct cost of unemployment benefits of employees who qualify for unemployment. The indexes that typically pay for salaries and OPE, including grant funds will be charged these costs. The cost is anticipated to be 1/3 of an employee’s salary up to $51K for up to 22 weeks. The Oregon Employment Department and not the UO makes the determination about whether any employee is eligible for unemployment benefits.

Does the notice period and LWOP/health insurance apply to all research NTTF, including career, pro-tems and post docs?

It applies to all research NTTF who are being non-renewed for COVID-19 related reasons. It does not apply to research NTTF whose appointment would have otherwise ended and/or whose contracts would not be renewed between now and August 31 for non-COVID19-related reasons.

How long does this program last?

Until August 31, 2020. After August 31, 2020, we will return to the normal funding contingent notice periods. We hope that work and funds will return over the summer and we will be able return researchers to full pay status by the end of August. Appointments for employees on the new extended benefits program for whom there is no funding available by the end of August will be terminated for loss of funding on August 31, 2020 as long as the 30-day notice period has elapsed.

What if there is not enough money in my grant to pay for the notice period and the health insurance during the leave without pay?

We will charge all appropriate funding sources for the salary and benefits during the notice period and for the health insurance during the LWOP. The PI may need to consult with their unit head to identify other local funds to cover these costs if necessary. Units that may not have the funds to cover these costs should include that information in the request for approval.

What if an RF’s appointment period was going to end between now and Aug 31 and I was not planning on renewing them?

After obtaining prior approval as describe above, you should provide notice at least 30 days before the contract ends that the contract will not be renewed. All research NTTF may select the LWOP option if they were non-renewed at the end of their appointment period as long as their supervisor affirms that they would have been renewed but for the COVID-19 crisis. If they select the LWOP option, then a new contract will be created between the original contract end date and August 31, 2020 and then the employee will be put on leave without pay for that period. Pro tem and post doc employees who are not being renewed for reasons unrelated to the COVID-19 crisis are not eligible for the extended benefits program.

What if the person will be at the five-year limit for post doc or three-year limit for pro tem between now and August 31, 2020?

Please indicate this issue when you seek approval to give someone notice and we will address the matter on a case-by-case basis.

How do I allocate the notice period pay and health insurance expenses?

The notice period pay and health insurance expenses for the notice period and LWOP period should be allocated to the funding sources typically used for the employee and their activities. In a case where a funding source is a sponsored project that has ended or the sponsor has deemed the expense unallowable, these costs must be allocated to a non-sponsored funding source.

Does this program apply to 9-month faculty?

No. Nine-month faculty have their full year health insurance paid for during the academic year. This program only applies to 12-month faculty.

What do I do about GEs?

We cannot cancel contracts of existing GEs. GEs who cannot work can continue to be paid on grant funds. To address questions about GEs for next year, please contact the Graduate School.

Are undergraduate students eligible for this program?

No. If there is a loss of work, they can use their emergency sick leave and then will need to be laid off. Please see the HR FAQs.