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  1. Policy
  2. Use of Appropriated and/or Gift Funds
  3. Circumstances Permitting the Use of Gift Funds
  4. Policy Coverage for Refreshments/Snacks/Meals
  5. Definitions
  6. Scenarios
1) Policy

The Government Accounting Office (GAO) ruled in 65 Comp. Gen. 738,739 (1986):

Feeding oneself is a personal expense which a Government Employee is expected to bear from his or her salary.

2) Use of Appropriated Funds and/or Gift Funds

APPROPRIATED FUNDS can be used for light refreshments for Federal employees if these 4 conditions are met:

  1. The conference is held for an official HHS mission requirement for which TDY has been authorized;
  2. At least 51% of the attendees are Federal employees, who are in TDY travel status;
  3. The conference is at least 4 hours; and
  4. Employee cannot pay for light refreshments with Government travel card or personal credit card. The Government provides the refreshments.

APPROPRIATED FUNDS can also be used for meals, as part of per diem, for official business when attending a non-Government-sponsored conference in the local travel area and if the following 5 conditions are met:

  1. Employee is in travel status for more than 12 hours;
  2. Registration fee is for attendance only;
  3. Meals are incidental to the conference;
  4. Attendance at the meals is necessary for full participation in the business of the conference; and
  5. Not able to take meals elsewhere without being absent from essential formal discussions, lectures, speeches.

BOTH APPROPRIATED FUNDS and GIFT FUNDS may be used for the purchase of light refreshments and/or meals when:

  • Light refreshments and “working meals” are incident to an authorized training program under the Government Employee Training Act.
  • Light refreshments are for an employee recognition and award ceremony.
  • Lunches are incident to an agency’s EEO/Cultural Awareness program.
  • Light refreshments are for CFC and Savings Bond events.
3) Circumstances Permitting the Use of Gift Funds

Gift funds may be used for light refreshments:

  • During scientific conferences, workshops, symposia, retreats
  • During meetings of individuals and groups serving as advisors to NIH

Gift funds may be used for light refreshments and meals:

  • For postdoc trainees, senior executive staff, and scientists being recruited through a formal search
  • Receptions honoring foreign dignitaries or prominent U.S. citizens
  • For official foreign delegations traveling under bilateral agreements
4) Policy Coverage for Refreshments/Snacks/Meals
5) Definitions

Conference - A meeting, retreat, seminar, symposium, or event that involves attendee travel.

Light Refreshments - Morning, afternoon or evening breaks (includes coffee, tea, milk, juice, soft drinks, donuts, bagels, fruit, pretzels, cookies, chips or muffins---Not Meals).

Employee - An employee is an individual who is:

  • Employed by the agency
  • Employed intermittently as an expert or consultant and paid on a daily when-actually-employed basis (Not Contractors)

Training - Training is:

  • A planned, prepared and coordinated program, course or curriculum
  • Improves individual or organizational performance
  • Assists in achieving the agency's mission and performance goals

NIH Local Travel Area - The NIH Local Travel Area is:

  • A minimum radius of 35 miles, including Washington, D.C.
  • Virginia Counties: Alexandria, Arlington, Fairfax, Loudon, and Prince William
  • Maryland Counties: Montgomery and Prince Georges
  • Baltimore City and Frederick City
6) Scenarios
Scenario 1:

How do these rules apply to the providing of meals and/or light refreshments using appropriated funds at Government-sponsored meetings in the NIH local travel area, including at the offical duty station?

Example: A conference held at the Marriott Hotel in Bethesda or the DoubleTree Hotel in Rockville.

Per Diem Restriction: Generally, NIH personnel stationed in Bethesda and Rockville will not be paid per diem or subsistence at or in the vicinity of their official duty stations. There are 3 exceptions to the per diem restriction:

Exception 1 - Overnight subsistence is not routinely authorized in Washington, DC, Baltimore, MD, or Rockville, MD unless:

Temporary duty station is more than 35 miles from the permanent duty station and residence, AND one of the following applies:

  1. Employee is required to be in official duty status for at least a normal workweek, or
  2. Employee is required to remain on official duty beyond reasonable hour for return to permanent duty station or residence, and is also required to return to temporary station early next morning, or
  3. Some other compelling set of circumstances which must be documented on Travel Order.

Exception 2 - Travel authorized under the Government Employees Training Act when the following conditions are met:

  1. Event must meet the definition of training.
  2. Determination is made that providing meals is necessary to achieve training objectives; and
  3. All participants required by NIH to stay in the same local hotel to foster participation in day and evening training activities.

Exception 3 - Travel to a non-Government-sponsored conference/meeting and the registration fee is for attendance only and does not cover meals.

Per diem may be authorized for meals only when the following conditions are met:

  1. Meals are incidental to the conference;
  2. Attendance at meals is necessary to full participation in the business of the conference; and
  3. Not able to take meals elsewhere without being absent from essential formal discussion, lectures, or speeches concerning the purpose of the conference.

Approval of Exceptions to Per Diem Restriction:

  • A TDY Travel Order must be prepared for the employee.
  • Prior written approval must be obtained from the Executive Officer, NCI.

Meals:

  1. The Comptroller General (CG) has opined that appropriated funds may not be used to pay per diem in the form of "free food".
  2. Not allowed even under extraordinary circumstances, such as:
    1. Late conference sessions
    2. Heavy volume of work
    3. Adverse weather conditions
    4. Protective missions by security personnel
    5. Inability to leave duty post

Light Refreshments are permitted when the 4 conditions below are met:

  1. For an official Government conference/meeting/retreat for which employee TDY travel is authorized;
  2. At least 51% of the attendees are Federal employees in TDY status;
  3. The conference duration is at least 4 hours; and
  4. Employee cannot pay for light refreshments with Government travel card or personal credit card. The Government provides the refreshments.
Scenario 2:

How do these rules apply to providing of meals and/or light refreshments using appropriated funds at Government-sponsored meetings while on TDY Travel?

Example: A Government-sponsored conference in Hagerstown, MD.

Meals:

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Last updated by Fox, Susan (NIH/NCI) [E] on Oct 07, 2010