Robert H. Carter, M.D.
Robert H. Carter, M.D.

Dear Colleagues,

When I last reached out back in April, we were all just beginning to navigate the unpredictable situation brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. Since that time, you have all demonstrated great patience, strong resolve, and a tremendous amount of adaptability.

NIH understands that the pandemic continues to upend lives and livelihoods, including those of its grantees and their institutions. To help you move through these uncertain times, the agency has provided the grantee community with a number of COVID-19 flexibilities. The agency will continue to monitor the situation and will post guide notices and updated FAQs on Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19): Information for NIH Applicants and Recipients of NIH Funding. NIH updates these pages frequently, so please share them widely with your staff.

NIAMS, like the other Institutes and Centers at NIH, has two basic tools to help those whose research has been delayed by the COVID-19: extensions in time and supplemental funding. Both of these tools are available following any natural disaster but certain requirements have been relaxed due to the pandemic. We can respond to requests for extensions now, particularly for deadlines related to trainees. However, we expect that some NIAMS grantees will need supplemental funding to help mitigate the disruptions and negative impacts of COVID-19. While grantees can submit requests for administrative supplements to existing awards at any time (parent announcement, PA-18-591*), NIAMS does not currently have specific funding available for COVID-19-related supplements.

Congress might provide additional funding to offset disruptions through either the normal fiscal year appropriation or through the emergency supplements. We will have a better idea of what we can offer after we know more about our fiscal year 2021 budget, both for COVID-19-specific funding and for non-COVID-19-related research. At that point, we will know if any funds are available specifically to offset COVID-19-related expenses or whether we will have to use our normal appropriation. In the meantime, NIAMS staff will continue to evaluate grant supplements and budgets in light of the current circumstances and will approve extensions in time now as appropriate, but supplemental funding will have to wait until we have either a supplemental appropriation or the normal appropriation for fiscal year 2021.

For this reason, we recommend that you delay any requests for COVID-19-related supplements until the full impact of the pandemic on your research is clear and at least until the start of the new fiscal year in October except for cases of extreme hardship. We also strongly suggest that you discuss the various options with your institution and with relevant NIH staff. These conversations should explore the use of rebudgeting and carryover funds as well as whether an administrative supplement is the best option for your project.

In addition, NIH has issued a number of funding opportunities specific to COVID-19. NIAMS participates in several of these programs, including the Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics (RADx) Program and the INvestigation of Co-occurring conditions across the Lifespan to Understand Down syndromE (INCLUDE) Project. A complete list of COVID-19-related opportunities available to NIAMS grantees, including guidance for trainees and other early-stage investigators, is available at NIAMS Guidance for new COVID-19 Research and Supplemental Funding.

While funding at this moment is limited, please know that we will continue to offer our support in whatever ways we can. We deeply appreciate the importance of your work, and will do all in our power to ensure that your research and training continue. We are truly in this together.

Robert H. Carter, M.D.
Acting Director
National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases
National Institutes of Health

* In October 2020, the NIAMS reissued parent announcement PA-18-591 as PA-20-272.