NSF Award Spending – Some Things to Know

Did you know that money doesn’t actually go to your institution when you get an award? The money stays in the US Treasury, and your institution is authorized to charge for expenditures incurred in the conduct of that award and get reimbursed. We can see how much you have spent of your funds at any time and it’s important that you are working regularly with your SRO to draw down funds.

Do you know what type of award you have? The most common types of awards at NSF are standard grants and continuing grants. With standard grants, you get access to the whole budget at the start of the award. With continuing grants, you get access to a part of the budget at the start of the award, with subsequent increments released at prearranged times later in the award. (You must be up to date on the annual reports for all your NSF awards for those increments to be made on time.)

Did you know that every dollar that supports your NSF research grant has an expiration date? The availability of federal dollars is based on the fiscal year the money was provided to NSF (i.e., appropriated by Congress) regardless of when the award was made to your institution. Federal funds expire after 7 years. Any funds that are unspent after that time stay in the US Treasury and are inaccessible to awardee institutions and NSF. The federal fiscal year starts on Oct 1, and that is when the clock starts ticking even though most DEB awards made in a given fiscal year have start dates well after October 1.

Here’s an example, if your award was a standard award with a start date of July 1, 2019, then the funds you received are already 9 months old when you received them, but access to any of the unused funds will still be cancelled September 30, 2025 (7 years from start of the 2019 fiscal year: Oct 1, 2018). This scenario can have impacts in the ability to request multiple no-cost extensions on an award which we will discuss in a future blog post.

But say you have a continuing award with a start date of July 1, 2019. Only any unspent funds from your first increment will be cancelled on September 30, 2025. If you get another increment July 2020, any unspent funds would be cancelled on September 30, 2026 (7 years from start of the 2020 fiscal year: Oct 1, 2019).

You will get reminders from us if you are nearing the expiration date for any of your funds, but good planning and communication with your SRO will keep you from running into trouble towards the end of your award.

As always, any questions you have about your award can be directed to the managing Program Officer. 

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