Snow or No Snow, NIH Addresses Grants and Office Closures

February 14, 2017 | By Jerry Ashworth | Post a Comment

SONY DSCOther parts of the country may have had their fair share of snow this winter, but for those of us in the nation’s capital, snow has been a scarce commodity in 2017. While a normal winter in Washington, D.C., produces several inches by this time of year, so far we have had only an inch or two, if that, since Dec. 1. This certainly doesn’t bode well for those planning late winter ski trips to local resorts.

I mention this after seeing a recent announcement from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) discussing federal office closures and grant application due dates. I could expect such a memo if the D.C. area had been recently inundated with a few feet of snow, bringing the city to a standstill, but I just found the timing of this announcement somewhat ironic in light of our balmy weather thus far.

Although the Grants.gov and eRA Commons systems are fully functional and many NIH employees telework in lieu of taking leave during office closures, the announcement points out that NIH is unable to guarantee the same level of support from service desks and staff as provided when offices are open. Therefore, effective as of Feb. 6, NIH is shifting grant application due dates to the next business day under specific emergency conditions.

The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) determines the operating status for federal offices in the Washington, D.C., area on its Snow and Dismissal Procedures site. NIH states that grant applicants should consult this site to determine NIH’s operating status. Therefore, grant application due dates will move to the next business day when the OPM operating status is listed as: “Federal offices are closed – emergency and telework-ready employees must follow their agency’s policies”; “Open – early departure”; “Immediate departure – federal offices are closed”: or “Shelter-in-place.”

The announcement also notes that NIH posts all funding opportunity announcements in a way that allows applicant submissions to continue for short period of time following the announcement’s expiration date. This grace period provides NIH with the flexibility to institute contingency plans when needed and leaves the determination of on-time submissions to NIH staff rather than systems. This policy does not apply when the OPM operating status is listed as: “Open – delayed arrival” or “Open with the option for unscheduled leave or unscheduled telework.”

Perhaps NIH knows something about the forecast that I don’t. Hopefully this announcement is a clarification and not an omen for something untoward. We shall see.

Let us know what you think about this announcement. We’d love to hear from you.

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