Wednesday, August 26, 2020


Contributed by Augie Maurelli, UVAFinance

The past five or six months have given all of us a new understanding of what it means to roll with the punches in terms of our personal and professional lives. The advent of the Coronavirus pandemic, itself unpredictable, has brought with it an almost unlimited supply of associated challenges even if we only consider our experience here in higher ed. 
Our concerns about the safety and financial needs of our students and staff, our need to make the best use of our own resources as well as those provided by the federal and Commonwealth governments, and our ongoing commitment to fiscal sustainability have gotten heavier and heavier since we entered this strange new era. The timeframe with which we’ve been working has been tight, to say the least, and operational challenges are certainly dynamic. 

This hyper-caffeinated
little being could represent
any one of us during the
last few months.  He's 
a creation of the Oatmeal.
See him in action here.
While most of the folks who are doing this work here at UVA would just say these additional challenges are “part of it,” I want to take a moment and call attention to the impressive and frankly encouraging work that I’ve seen done here in UVAFinance and in partnership across Grounds to ensure we address the needs as they come, working together and thinking creatively.

As soon as the CARES Act was passed, UVAFinance pulled together quickly, working to understand over 300 pages of legislation and its potential impacts. It was no small task, as the Cares Act involved several aspects, including institutional support, student support, tax implications and labor relief. The aggregate bill addressed assistance with cashflow, management of COVID-related leave, direct funding, pass through funding from the state, and loans for our medical center.

I’ll link to several stories both on the UVAFinance blog and in UVAToday of how UVA came together in this herculean effort, and I’m going to highlight just a few more “behind the scenes” types of efforts here. As endlessly complex as the process sounds when you read about it, it’s even more complex when you’re living it day to day in the work environment, as even small changes mean that everyone has to move in tandem and keep their eyes open for potential hurdles.

Examples of this include the institution of the Employee Assistance Fund. This was a new fund and required a plan document and administrative that included intake, review, payment and overall program adherence. Behind the scenes, UVAFinance and HR worked feverishly to work out how to pay the tax- funds, which required the implementation of a new digital payment solution, as well as a process for our reporting team to shepherd the disbursements. Additionally, we established how to effectively use the Bank of America disbursement tool and made sure we were compliant on all points.

Learn more about UVA’s response to staff and student needs:,

Much of this work had to be finished in a span of nine days. What our teams did is incredible. I’ve personally never seen higher ed work together as swiftly and determinedly – once we had the directive from our leadership that support for our challenged employees and contractors was mission-critical, everyone just collectively agreed that time was of the essence and that we’d get it done.

Within the CARES Act, UVA received funds through the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF), and you can read more about SFS’s work on that front on the blog here.  This required coordination from the Office of Sponsored Programs since they technically have to draw the funds through the federal portal, while Student Financial processes and accounts for all the incurred expenses, with Accounting and Reporting reconciling and assisting in all of the CARES act reporting requirement.

Similarly, when the Commonwealth received federal funding from CARES, there were Coronavirus Relief requirements and a separate process for forecasting, submitting and receiving aid. Our budgeting team reached out immediately to assess potential impacts from all of our UVA partners, working with Facilities, our auxiliaries, and Deans alike to ensure we could capture as much available funding as possible. 

In tandem, Procurement sprang into action as well, pricing and sourcing necessary supplies and planning distribution (read more about Procurement’s efforts in this blog piece).

The work doesn’t end with execution either. The budget team and financial reporting team are tracking expenditures and reimbursements with regular submissions to the feds and the commonwealth demonstrating that this will continue to be a huge lift for all stakeholders involved.

And, all the while, we’re planning to return to Grounds, with all of the complexities that it will bring. As we continue to adjust our response based on UVA’s plans for fall, we do so in full knowledge that the use of all these funds will be subject to a separate APA audit, so we’ll be paying strict attention to internal controls and compliance. 

I hope you’re as encouraged as I have been to reflect for just a moment on the magnitude of what’s already been done. This is the good work of people who believe in what they do, and who have invested fully in the mission of the institution they serve.

The only thing that is for sure at this point is that we will continue to go through a lot of uncertainty. In many ways, we’ll remain at sea, in a heavy fog, but the ship will still run straight because it has a good team of people working together.

Let’s take a deep breath between the coffee and the deadlines and realize that even though we’re still afloat on uncharted seas, we at least have a Presidential Order and potentially another round of legislation coming our way!

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