Sneak Preview: Travel, Conference Costs Address Dependent Care

April 30, 2014 | By Jerry Ashworth | Post a Comment

xgran_bookshot(The following was excerpted from an article in the Federal Grants Management Handbook.) Grant program managers who have staff on travel for their federal awards should be aware that the Office of Management and Budget’s uniform grant reform guidance, in an effort to encourage family-friendly policies, has included new language under the “travel” cost item related to temporary dependent care costs. Such costs also are mentioned under “conferences.” In addition to the new travel costs, there is also more flexibility with prior travel costs, requiring recipients to review and update local written policies, as needed.

In §200.474, travel costs, the uniform guidance keeps much of the same language found in the OMB cost principle circulars, in which travel costs are generally allowable. The section particularly spells out that travel costs may be charged on an actual cost basis or on a per diem or mileage basis in lieu of actual costs or on a combination of the two provided that the method used is applied to an entire trip (not to selected days) and that charges are consistent with a recipient entity’s written travel reimbursement policies.

This is a big departure from prior federal guidance that required nonfederal entities to apply federal pricing to rooms and airline reservations for travel under federal grants whether or not the nonfederal recipient could qualify for those pricing standards. Under the old guidance, nonfederal entities would often have to make up the difference using local funds between what they had to pay for travel and the federal cost caps. The new uniform guidance further notes that lodging and subsistence costs still must be considered reasonable and allowable, and should not exceed charges normally allowed by the nonfederal entity’s written travel policy.

If a nonfederal entity does not have a written policy regarding travel costs, it may apply federal mileage rates established by the General Services Administration under 48 C.F.R. 31.205-46(a). With an increased focus on internal controls and the need to provide reasonable assurance of allowable costs; however, recipients who have no written travel policy would be well-advised to create one, and recipients who have an existing travel policy should update it to reflect the new allowability of costs when charging travel to federal grants, as well as adding some new family-friendly travel cost categories.

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