COVID-19 Pandemic Expense Reimbursement


  • The COVID-19 pandemic has created new hardships and needs for employees and trainees, including needs related to childcare, transportation, and workspaces. 
  • The following guidance is provided to departments to help determine whether employees may be reimbursed for costs incurred during the pandemic. 
  • UCSF has also developed Qualified Disaster Relief Programs (QDRP) to provide tax-exempt grants to UCSF employees, trainees, and students to help with extraordinary costs incurred as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Outside of the grant programs and the specific commute cost reimbursement option for students, departments should adhere to the guidance on the following pages.  While exceptional reimbursements may occur, departments should attempt to follow the spirit of this document.
  • UCSF will reimburse employees for the purchase of COVID-19 tests for required testing associated with UCSF business-related activities.

Guiding Principles

  • The University pays for and reimburses costs related to a University business purpose.
  • In many cases, departments should provide necessary supplies and materials through normal University supply chain channels, thereby avoiding the need for employees to purchase supplies and seek reimbursement. 
  • Reimbursement practices should:
    • be consistent across the organization
    • comply with University policy and reflect good stewardship of public funding
    • ensure individual employees are not excessively burdened by the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and are able to perform their work
    • reflect the temporary nature of the current pandemic
  • Guidance may need to change as the pandemic continues and as further decisions are made about telecommuting practices. 

Allowable and Unallowable Reimbursements—Exceptions Require Pre-approval

Area Allowable Generally Unallowable
Commute expense
  • Campuswide program-based subsidy with Uber for essential on-site personnel working late at night or early in the morning, with advanced approval, until this program ends
  • Transportation Services can work with Real Estate to provide designated parking for staff returning to campus for pre-move office packing and clearing
  • Purchases of vehicles or related equipment of any kind
  • Parking
  • BART/Muni/CalTrain fares
  • Gas/mileage
  • Uber/Lyft/taxis, except as noted under allowable reimbursements
Employees may wish to apply for relief through QDRP programs.  Extraordinary expenses for graduate students may be reimbursed (see separate guidance)
Space   Rental of space, without prior approval from UCSF Real Estate and UCSF Finance
Working from home

The Telework and Remote Teams Task Force will develop a proposal. 

Interim recommendations: 

  • Equipment and supplies should be purchased through UCSF Supply Chain Management
  • New purchases should be limited and allowed only if University-issued equipment cannot be taken home or the employee does not already have personal equipment at home. Existing equipment should be re-purposed wherever possible.
  • Reimbursement is allowed for purchases of business-related equipment that can be returned to the office, including laptops, monitors, keyboards, mice, cameras (departments should approve and record all purchases)
Telephone plan charges are allowed only if employee incurs additional charges over their existing plan limit, with documentation; calls should be made using the internet when possible.
  • Furniture, including chairs, unless an ergonomic need is documented
  • Printers, paper, ink, or other office supplies*
  • Telephone devices
  • Meals
  • Mortgage or rent
  • Construction/home repairs
  • Installation charges
  • Purchase of appliances, fixtures, or decorations beyond ergonomically required equipment
  • Utilities, wifi

(Exceptions for telephones and wifi may be allowed with pre-approval for special circumstances and consistent with existing practices)

*Departments should establish procedures for distributing office supplies.
Quarantine-related costs
  • Quarantine costs in reasonably-priced accommodations for job-acquired COVID-19 or exposure 
  • Pre-approved hotel accommodations in designated properties for essential on-site workers working long hours over multiple days
  • Quarantine accommodations for community-acquired COVID-19
Employees may wish to apply for relief through QDRP programs.
Other supplies and equipment
  • May be allowed if there is a specific business need; employees should seek pre-approval.  Example: wearable breast pumps for nurses

If not already provided by department:

  • Disinfectant wipes for on-site workspaces
  • Masks/other PPE for building entry
Childcare None Employees may wish to apply for relief through QDRP programs.

Guidelines: Reimbursement of COVID Tests

UCSF will reimburse employees for the purchase of COVID-19 tests for required testing associated with UCSF business-related activities. 

UCSF’s COVID-19 Testing Policy is available on the UCSF Coronavirus website..  Testing policy is likely to change over time.  Reimbursements should be provided only for tests needed to comply with UCSF policy in effect at the time or the requirements of external organizations (such as a conference host).

Examples of situations in which testing may be required:

  • Employees, learners and/or guests traveling for University business
  • Employees, learners and/or guests attending a University event, conference, or a meeting requiring testing
  • Research participants required to test to proceed with research

Departments are responsible for covering the cost of reimbursements from appropriate fund sources. 

In addition, departmental approvers are responsible for ensuring that reimbursements are applicable based on UCSF policy at the time and/or the requirements of external organizations.

Departments are responsible for ensuring that reimbursements are reasonable and necessary.  UCSF provides free PCR, Rapid, and Color test kits for employees and learners at multiple locations and these should be used as a first choice.

Free tests for special events may also be available through the UCSF Police Department, while supplies last.  Event planners should reach out to [email protected] with the UCSF Police Department for information.  

Additional questions may be directed to: Jennifer Novelli at [email protected].