Sent on August 28, 2020 to Chief Financial Managers, RRC Contacts, and EFS Cluster Directors.
Business Expenses During Reduced Operations: Food, Care Packages, and Internet Services
Many departments across the University of Minnesota system have asked about the allowability of different kinds of purchases. Here is guidance on a few of the more common inquiries. Please share this information further with your team members supporting departments and researchers.
Historically many departments have made food purchases when conducting meetings or holding events for students. For online or virtual events, such as faculty and advisors meeting with students, events where food has traditionally been used as an enticement for participation, staff meetings, etc., departments have asked if they can buy food, vouchers, gift cards, or provide other incentives or compensation to those involved. This is not an allowable use of funds.
These are not allowable business expenses.
The University is facing both real and unknown budget challenges.
This type of activity is likely taxable irrespective of who is being paid.
Any payments or gifts may impact a student's financial aid.
There are other avenues to provide food for those who may be in need, each campus has a food pantry or local food shelf information available, if needed.
Gift baskets, care packages, goodie bags
Departments occasionally request to provide gifts to online or virtual meeting participants (where it's not an approved research project involving human participants). This is not an allowable use of funds for the same reasons listed above.
Internet services, WiFi hotspots, or similar
This is not allowed for long-term or ongoing situations to pay for home Internet services or access for employees, or participant Internet access or services, to allow their participation in a meeting or event.
Providing installation and ongoing internet services at home for employees (faculty or staff) is not allowed. When it was unclear whether the work from home order for employees (faculty and staff) would be short-term or not, some very few emergency purchases were allowed for hot spots or temporary internet service for employees with no other connectivity.
Paying for short term cell plan data overages, temporary data plan upgrades, or temporary wifi hotspots is allowed with supervisor support and where the employee has no other form of connectivity. If there is an option to upgrade a plan or service instead of incurring incremental costs, choose the least expensive option.
If there's a continued need for internet access and the individual doesn't have adequate access at home, there should be a conversation about an application being made to return to the office.
This email was sent Chief Financial Managers, RRC Contacts, and EFS Cluster Directors.