Greetings, PIs, Business, and Grant Administrators,

Recently federal agencies have increased their focus on the burn rate of award funds and the timing of expenditures as they relate to the performance period of the award. For example, if an award is 60% into its period and only 20% of the funding has been spent, a sponsor would likely investigate further. Similarly, a sharp increase in spending at the end of an award period will likely result in further investigation.

Managing award spending begins when the award is first received and continues throughout the life of the award. Good communication and timely review of financial information and personnel effort by both the PI and unit post award administrator will help avoid spending spikes, address potential questions, and facilitate close-out of the award.

Although the Principal Investigator (PI) is ultimately responsible for the award, day-to-day financial management by a unit post award administrator can make a big difference in ensuring that funds are properly spent in accordance with the approved budget and research work plan. Spending spikes, not only pose an audit risk, but often result in unallowable costs that require transfer off of the award.  Following are some tips for avoiding them:

Large unspent balances may require justification to the sponsor, and SPA staff can assist in facilitating the necessary communication.  The justification should clearly explain why a large unobligated balance exists, its impact on the scope and timeline of the project, and include a detailed plan on how the unspent funds are expected to be utilized in the next budget period. 


Several federal agencies created detailed guidance as it relates to reporting of unspent balances. 



Department of the Air Force



HHS - Administration for Children & Families


If you have any questions or concerns, please reach out to your SPA financial analyst.


Thank you.


Linda Serrantonio, CRA | Assistant Director | Team Lead

Research Finance | Reporting

University of Vermont

Sponsored Project Administration

217 Waterman | 85 South Prospect Street

Burlington, VT 05405-0160

P: 802-656-4194 | [log in to unmask] |


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