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Procurement and Contract Services

COVID-19 Travel Reimbursement FAQs

Updated July 7, 2020

As part of USM’s response to COVID-19, travel reimbursement FAQs are provided below.  The University is monitoring the situation closely and reserves the right to alter the arrangements contained in these FAQs as necessary. You are encouraged to check the University's official COVID-19 website regularly in order to keep up to date with the latest information.

University-Sponsored Travel

Are there any special procedures in place for conducting travel during the COVID-19 response?

Although general business travel suspensions have been lifted effective July 1, 2020, until further notice, any Permission to Travel (PTT) requests must have prior Vice President or equivalent-level approval in order to constitute authorized travel.

What can I do about travel-related expenses incurred for a conference or other event that has been cancelled?

You should request refunds for all expenses paid that will no longer be utilized in order to minimize the costs to USM.  Contact conference/event organizers for registration and deposit refunds.  Contact hotels for deposit refunds.  Contact the airline for airfare credit or refund.  If airline reservations were made through state contract travel agents, contact the travel agent who will contact the airlines and handle the refunds/credits for you.

What are the fees associated with cancelling a flight?

There are no fees for cancelling a flight.  The fees are incurred when rebooking the flight.  Many tickets are non-refundable; however, the flight can be cancelled and usually the ticket voucher is available for use one year from the date of issue.  In addition, there are airline-imposed change fees for re-booking non-refundable, cancelled tickets.  The fee is usually $200 for domestic flights and $300 for international flights, plus any difference in fare, but can vary depending on the airline.  During extraordinary circumstances airlines may waive the re-booking fee.

When should I cancel my flight?

Given the current situation, we recommend you wait until the last minute to cancel your flights in case the airlines issue waivers.  If the ticket is cancelled prior to the airline issuing the waiver, the ticket will not be eligible for the waiver.  You can cancel up until the day of travel as long as you have not checked in.  We recommend checking the airlines’ websites for cancellation policies.  If you have booked with a travel agency you can get this information from them.

What should be done with a refund for cancelled travel plans?

If the expense was paid for by the University or reimbursed to you by the University then the funds should be deposited back to the University account where the expense was charged.  If the money was deposited into your account or is in the form of a check with your name, you will need to write a check payable to “The University of Southern Mississippi” and give it to your departmental finance staff for deposit to the University.  If you receive reimbursement from the University for a cancelled airline flight, but also receive a flight voucher for future travel, it is the responsibility of both the traveler and the department head to ensure that the credit will be used for University-related business within the time period designated by the airline.  Bear in mind that Mississippi ethics laws require that any public servant should not realize personal gain from benefits that are due the state agency.

I could not get a refund.  Can I be reimbursed for conference and travel expenses for cancelled events?

University policy states that reimbursement may be requested as soon as you have made the expenditure and completed the Travel Voucher.  However, reasonable efforts should be made to request refunds prior to submitting expense reimbursement requests, particularly when the conference/event has already been cancelled or likely will be cancelled.  Check with your supervisor to determine if your reimbursement is subject to more strict guidance.  In particular, conference and travel expenses associated with grant/sponsored project funding can only be charged if these benefited the grant, and reimbursement may need to be made from unrestricted funds.  See next question for more detail.

What if travel is related to my grant/sponsored project?

Follow all university policies and procedures for cancelled travel. Refunds must be credited to the sponsored project if that project provided the source of funds. Cancellation costs may be charged to the sponsored project with full documentation. If the sponsor later disallows the cost, which is possible, the cost will have to be moved to another source of funds. If you receive credit for future travel rather than a refund, the cost for travel must be moved to another source of funding. If you later use the credit on travel for the same or a different sponsored project, the cost may be transferred to the project with full documentation. Direct questions to the Office of Research Administration at 601.266.4119.

What if I had personal travel plans that were cancelled or disrupted due to this situation?

The University cannot reimburse you for expenses associated with personal trip cancellations or disruptions.  Out of an abundance of caution, to protect your health and minimize further health risks, we ask that everyone exercise prudent judgment when making travel plans and stay abreast of current travel guidance provided by the CDC and the University before departure so that you can prepare and take proper precautions.  Travel restrictions may change over the coming weeks and could possibly affect your return to USM.

How can I avoid using my personal credit card for travel expenses?

Best practice purchasing method for conference/event registration: Use your departmental P-Card to pay for conference registrations.  If the conference/event is cancelled and a refund is requested, the organizers will typically refund the same method used for payment resulting in the refund going back on the P-Card.

What if we have a speaker or recruit scheduled to come to campus and they have incurred some travel expenses that are non-refundable?

These types of expenses will be eligible for reimbursement.  The department should submit a non-employee remittance voucher, W-9 and receipt to Accounts Payable for processing.

I have additional questions related to travel using University funds. Who can I contact?

For business travel expense reimbursement questions, call (601) 266-4131.  You can also visit the Travel website to review our current travel policies.

Travel Using USM Foundation Funds

If you requested or planned to request travel related payments from The University of Southern Mississippi Foundation that have or will occur between March 10, 2020, and the end of the period of suspension of University-sponsored domestic travel, please consider the following.

If your travel plans had to be cancelled due to the suspension and you have not yet been reimbursed:

  • Attempt to obtain a refund.
  • If a refund is not possible, submit a completed withdrawal request form with appropriate signatures and applicable documentation to The USM Foundation and include a statement such as the following, “travel had to be cancelled and a refund is not possible.”
  • If a refund is not possible but the vendor offers a credit, and the credit will be used for legitimate business purposes, submit a completed withdrawal request form with appropriate signatures and applicable documentation to The USM Foundation and include a statement such as the following, “travel had to be cancelled, a refund is not possible but a credit was issued and will be used for legitimate business purposes.”

If your travel plans meet a travel exception and have been approved by the Dean/Vice President/Provost:

  • Submit a completed withdrawal request form with appropriate signatures and applicable documentation to The USM Foundation and include documentation of the approval.

If a travel payment has already been processed and the travel must be cancelled due to University travel restrictions:

  • Please attempt to obtain a refund. Once a refund is obtained, the funds must be deposited at The USM Foundation to the fund from which it was originally paid.
  • If the payment is non-refundable, no action should be taken. These payments were made in good faith associated with a legitimate business purpose.
  • If a refund is not possible but the vendor offers a credit, the credit must be used for legitimate business purposes.

If you have any questions specific to travel reimbursements from the USM Foundation:

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