Flexibilities Guidance for Applicants and Recipients of Federal Financial Assistance Affected by COVID-19
April 19, 2021
On March 19, 2021, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issued Memorandum M-21-20pdf iconexternal icon, which addresses administrative relief for applicants and recipients of COVID-19 related federal financial assistance and those applicants and recipients affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The memorandum identifies administrative flexibilities to help manage administrative, financial management, and audit requirements under 2 CFR Part 200. This guidance will reference the parallel sections found in the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) grant regulations at 45 CFR Part 75, which are applicable to CDC recipients.
CDC’s approach to the flexibilities from M-21-20pdf iconexternal icon is outlined below. As noted above, these flexibilities apply not only to recipients with COVID-19 related federal financial assistance awards, but also to recipients with assistance awards not related to COVID-19 but who are affected by COVID-19. CDC’s intent is to extend these flexibilities as permitted by law and wherever possible. In addition and consistent with the memorandum, CDC will specifically consider exceptions that can advance racial equity and support for underserved communities. The flexibilities guidance applies to awards from CDC and ATSDR.
Applicants and recipients are likely familiar with these flexibilities, as most were included in previous CDC guidance on this topic, based on previous OMB memoranda that expired in 2020. Only the following previous flexibilities were not included in this most recent 2021 memorandum – Salaries and other project activities; Allowability of costs not normally chargeable to awards; and Extension of currently approved indirect cost rates. Additionally, when the 2020 OMB memoranda expired, CDC remained committed to working closely with recipients to reduce administrative burden where needed due to the COVID-19 pandemic in accordance with applicable grant regulations, including 45 CFR § 75.102, Exceptions.
With the 2021 CDC guidance, the flexibilities are either broadly adopted (no approval action needed by CDC), or require a collaborative, case-by-case approach (recipients contact their assigned grants management specialist/program official to request the flexibility). Flexibilities 1, 7, and 9 are broadly adopted (although recipients should be aware of the applicable documentation requirements), and the remainder are case-by-case. Where any flexibility is addressed on a case-by-case basis, this is to ensure that CDC and recipients work together to consider the potential impact of the flexibility on their grant or cooperative agreement. There is one new, case-by-case flexibility that was not part of previous guidance (Flexibility 12).
In addition to the guidance on this webpage about administrative flexibilities, there are other resources regarding administrative relief and COVID-19 listed below. Please contact your respective grants management specialist/program official listed in your notice of award if you have questions.
- CDC’s Temporary Reassignment of Personnel Webpage provides information about how to request temporary reassignment of personnel, and how temporary reassignment is contingent upon an active, public health emergency declaration.
- Expanded Authority Fact Sheetpdf icon provides information about expanded authority for carryover and the use of unobligated funds in subsequent budget periods.
- CDC’s Frequently Asked Questions (FAQS) for COVID-19 provides some more common questions received from recipients and the agency’s responses.
- Flexibility with SAM registration/recertification (45 CFR § 75.205).
CDC has relaxed the requirement for active System for Award Management (SAM) registration at time of application in order to expeditiously issue funding. At the time of award, the requirements of 45 CFR § 75.205, Federal awarding agency review of risk posed by applicants, continue to apply. If not registered at time of award, CDC requires the recipient to obtain a unique entity identifier and complete SAM registration within 30 days of the federal award date. Current registrants in SAM with active registrations expiring between April 1, 2021, and September 30, 2021, will automatically be afforded a one-time extension of 180 days.
- Waiver for Notice of Funding Opportunities (NOFOs) Publication (45 CFR § 75.203).
CDC will make every effort to provide applicants with adequate time to submit quality applications, should additional funding become available for COVID-19 competitive NOFOs. However, applicants should be aware that CDC may publish emergency and competitive NOFOs for less than 30 days if CDC needs to expedite the process to make funds available more quickly.
Applicants may search for applicable funding opportunities at Grants.govexternal icon.
- Pre-award costs (45 CFR § 75.458).
If within the scope of the award, CDC may allow necessary pre-award costs that are incurred (i) from March 15, 2021, through the Public Health Emergency Period and (ii) prior to the effective date of a federal award. Recipients should reach out to their assigned grants management specialist/program official with questions about the availability of pre-award costs.
- No-cost extensions on expiring awards (45 CFR § 75.309).
To the extent permitted by law, CDC may extend awards that were active as of March 31, 2021, and scheduled to expire prior or up to December 31, 2021, automatically at no cost for a period of up to 12 months. When CDC extends an award, this will allow time for recipient assessments, the resumption of many individual projects, and a report on program progress and financial status to agency staff. Project-specific financial and performance reports will be due 90 days following the end date of the extension. CDC will examine the need to extend other project reporting as the need arises. Recipients should reach out to their assigned grants management specialist/program official if they anticipate needing a no-cost extension.
- Abbreviated non-competitive continuation requests (45 CFR § 75.309).
CDC may accept a brief statement from recipients for non-competitive continuation requests scheduled to come in from April 1, 2021, to December 31, 2021, for projects with planned future support. CDC programs will post any specific instructions in their continuation guidance. CDC will use the brief statements to verify that recipients are in a position to resume or restore their project activities and accept a planned continuation award. CDC may examine the need to extend this approach on subsequent continuation award start dates as recipients have an opportunity to assess the situation.
- Waivers from prior approval requirements (45 CFR § 75.407).
On a case-by-case basis, CDC may waive prior approval requirements as necessary to effectively address the response. All costs charged to federal awards must be consistent with federal cost policy guidelines and the terms of the award, except where specified in Memorandum M-21-20. If a recipient anticipates needing a waiver, they should reach out to their assigned grants management specialist/program official.
For information about redirection, see FAQ No. 9.
- Exemption of certain procurement requirements (45 CFR § 75.328(b), 45 CFR § 75.330).
CDC waives the procurement requirements contained in 45 CFR § 75.328(b) regarding geographical preferences and 45 CFR § 75.330 regarding contracting with small and minority businesses, women's business enterprises, and labor surplus area firms. This exemption is limited to these specific procurement requirements. Recipients will still need to otherwise follow their agency procurement process. Recipients must document all procurement actions and maintain appropriate documents and records to support the charges against their federal awards. Recipients may be asked to provide that documentation for review.
- Extension of financial and other reporting (45 CFR § 75.341, 45 CFR § 75.342).
On a case-by-case basis, CDC may allow recipients to delay submission of financial or other reports up to 3 months beyond the normal due date. A recipient should reach out to their assigned grants management specialist/program official if they anticipate needing an extension. Determinations will be made based on recipient need and assessment of recipient’s previous progress reports, and any potential impacts on future funding amounts and awards. If CDC allows such a delay, recipients may continue to draw down federal funds without the timely submission of these reports. However, these reports must be submitted at the end of the extension period.
- Extension of single audit submission (45 CFR § 75.501, 45 CFR § 75.512).
CDC recipients and subrecipients that have not yet filed their single audits with the Federal Audit Clearinghouse as of the date of the issuance of OMB Memorandum M-21-20pdf iconexternal icon that have fiscal year-ends through June 30, 2021, may delay the completion and submission of the Single Audit reporting package, as required under Subpart F of 45 CFR § 45.501, Audit Requirements, to 6 months beyond the normal due date.
Foreign recipients, who submit audits directly to the Audit Resolution Team (ART), may also delay the completion and submission of the Single Audit reporting package up to 6 months beyond the normal due date (if they have not yet filed their single audits as of the date of the issuance of OMB Memorandum M-21-20pdf iconexternal icon and have fiscal year-ends through June 30, 2021).
This extension does not require individual recipients and subrecipients to seek approval for the extension by CDC, but recipients and subrecipients should maintain documentation of the reason for the delayed filing. Recipients and subrecipients taking advantage of this extension would still qualify as a "low-risk auditee" under the criteria of 45 CFR § 75.520(a), Criteria for a low-risk auditee.
- Flexibility with application deadlines. (45 CFR § 75.202, 45 CFR § 75.203).
When a delay occurs because the applicant or recipient is directly impacted by COVID-19, CDC will consider extending the application due date beyond the date specified in the Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) on a case-by-case basis, in accordance with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Grants Policy Statement “Submitting an Application,” Part I-25-26. Please submit your request to extend the NOFO deadline to the assigned grants management specialist/program official noted in the NOFO under Agency Contacts prior to the NOFO closing date. Your request should include detail about the delay due to the COVID-19 crisis. CDC will consider your request and other potential impacts of an extended deadline such as risk to award, current fiscal year funds, and additional burden on recipients by placing multiple NOFO deadlines at the same time.
Flexibilities may also be available for non-competing continuations. For recipients impacted by COVID-19, CDC is working to reduce the burden associated with non-competing continuations through abbreviated non-competitive continuation requests (see No. 5 above). Please reach out to your assigned grants management specialist/program official prior to the deadline.
- Extension of closeout (45 CFR§ 45.381).
On a case-by-case basis, CDC may allow the recipient to delay submission of any pending financial, performance, or other reports required by the terms of the award for the closeout of expired projects, provided that proper notice about the reporting delay is given by the recipient to the agency. This delay in submitting closeout reports may not exceed one year after the award expires. A recipient should reach out to their assigned grants management specialist/program official if they anticipate needing an extension due to the COVID-19 response.
- Management Requirement related to Physical Inventories (45 CFR § 75.320 (d) (2)).
On a case-by-case basis, CDC may provide recipients up to a 12-month extension for the biennial physical inventory of equipment purchased under a federal award. A recipient should reach out to their assigned grants management specialist/program official if they anticipate needing an extension.