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COVID-19 Financial Mitigation Strategies

Due to the operational impacts of the pandemic, the campus requires mitigation strategies to address the immediate financial losses and risks.  

Updated Nov. 23, 2020

In March of 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic unfolded, UC Davis began to experience lost net revenues and increased operating expenses. Due to the impact of the pandemic on our operations since March, a state budget reduction of $45 million, and lower enrollment than what was expected — we expect to address limited-term revenue losses and increased costs of over $210 million for campus in this fiscal year.

Financial Mitigation Strategies, Nov. 2020 (PDF)

“Mitigation requires shared sacrifice campuswide and locally. We will continue to make decisions collaboratively, following a principled process with focus on our strategic priorities.”
– Mary S. Croughan, Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor

Potential financial risks and uncertainties

While many of the financial challenges are expected to be limited-term in nature, financial impacts will grow and additional risks will be identified as the pandemic continues. Potential risks and uncertainties include:

  • Significant new operating expenses to ensure a safe campus
  • Financial losses for auxiliary operations such as housing, dining and parking
  • Impact on research through reduced ability to conduct in-person research and/or reductions in federal research funding
  • Future enrollment shortfalls
  • The potential for additional state budget reductions in fiscal year 2021-22
  • The potential for additional federal aid

Actions taken

At the beginning of the pandemic, UC Davis and the UC system quickly took action to:

  • Ensure liquidity through working capital borrowing
  • Access market gains from our investments
  • Access available federal funding sources
  • Pause faculty ranges and merit programs for non-represented employees, reducing expected cost increases for fiscal year 2020-21
  • Adjust retirement system funding to reduce costs for fiscal year 2020-21

Strategies to address immediate needs

While there will continue to be uncertainty and changes in the coming months, the campus can address the immediate financial losses and risks with identified one-time funds and mitigation strategies while, in parallel, continuing to implement and adjust the budget framework to align our structural budget over time. The mitigation strategies will provide critical short-term resources to address immediate short-term needs and smooth the structural adjustments that will be needed over a longer time period. These strategies will be adapted as additional opportunities and needs arise. 

Mitigation principles

The following principles guide our mitigation strategies and supplement the budget framework principles.

  • Protect, to the greatest extent possible, against COVID-related indefinite layoffs.
  • Defer new permanent or one-time cuts in fall 2020 and winter 2021 quarters.
  • Recognize the need for shared sacrifice, including central campus and units.
  • Deliver working capital options that partially and temporarily mitigate budget impacts, recognizing that repayment strategies are needed and will result in long-term tradeoffs.
  • Investments to support the reopening of campus to meet public health guidelines are a high priority.

Highlights: One-time funding sources

A number of one-time funding sources have been identified to address critical limited-term uses. Estimates included below are a range based on the known information and planning underway at this time. These estimates will be refined and the range of options will be narrowed in the coming months. Central budget actions will be managed to best fit solutions to needs. 

  • Working Capital Loan and Internal Borrowing (up to $200 million one-time)
  • This plan proposes internal borrowing of up to $200 million backed by aggregate cash balances repaid over time. Available cash balances were bolstered by a working capital bond sold by the University of California in July. It should be noted that the bond will require regular debt service payments, including interest. A strategy to support payment of the debt service obligation is built into this internal borrowing strategy. 
  • Federal CARES Act Institutional Funding and Other Future Federal Stimulus ($17 million one-time)
  • UC Davis received $17 million in institutional support from the federal CARES Act. The federal guidance primarily allows support for lost revenues linked to refunds to students. For our campus, those costs were related to study abroad fees and housing and dining contract refunds and we have applied these funds to these programs, representing a fraction of expected losses. To the extent that there is additional approved federal stimulus, those funds will be incorporated into these mitigation strategies and allocated based on the applicable guidelines.
  • Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Reimbursement ($1 to $3 million one-time)
  • Current guidance for FEMA reimbursement limits funding to only those expenditures that are required in direct response to the public health crisis to protect health and life. Along with other UC campuses, we are working to maximize and support our claim. We anticipate that although funding for this may be limited, we will successfully recoup some of our costs.  FEMA reimburses 75 percent of approved claims costs and such reimbursement will offset the eligible expenditures. We are estimating $1-3 million in FEMA funds at this time.
  • Accessing Extraordinary Payouts from the Campus Enhancement Fund FFEs ($7 to $21 million)
  • University investment policies permit campuses to request up to an additional 5 percent payout on Funds Functioning as an Endowment (FFE) with the chancellor’s approval. UC Davis has the Campus Enhancement Fund (CEF), a FFE which was established to generate additional investment income to support critical capital investments. This strategy proposes taking an additional 2 percent payout annually from the CEF for 1-3 years yielding approximately $7 million annually. By limiting the extraordinary payout to 2 percent, this strategy maintains the FFE corpus, with some potential growth, to sustain the annual payout income. 
  • Accessing Investment Gains ($45 to $60 million one-time)
  • At the end of FY 2019-20, campus worked with the University of California to recognize a sizeable appreciation in the market value of some of our cash investments. We will use $15-$30 million to support a portion of the repayment associated with the internal borrowing strategy discussed above. The balance of approximately $45-$60 million is available for other mitigation or investment needs.
  • Unit Sources ($40 to $55 million one-time)
  • There is an expectation that units will use internal resources to cover a portion of COVID-19 losses incurred. Potential mitigation funds in units include, but are not limited to:
      > Operational savings resulting from the curtailment of operations
         · Reduced travel, entertainment, and meeting expenses
         · Employee vacancy savings
         · New one-time expense savings
      > Carryforward balances
      > Extraordinary payout from unit-managed FFEs
      > Revenue from increased 2020 Summer Session enrollment
      > Resources from a one-time rebate of the UCOP Tax Assessment
      > Net revenue from increasing revenue generating activities.

    It is recognized that within units these savings and potential revenue sources may be distributed across operational units, faculty accounts, and held in various fund sources. Given these unprecedented times, unit leaders must consider how to leverage and redistribute these resources to address COVID losses.

    In addition, the Regents may take actions such as temporary furloughs, curtailments, salary reductions or other actions that could result in substantial one-time savings. Any such action will be subject to substantial discussion and deliberation and would likely not occur until sometime in calendar year 2021. Such actions would result in additional savings that could be deployed for mitigation.

Highlights: One-time funding uses

The primary use for centrally-identified revenues will be to mitigate known shortfalls to defer additional budget reductions in 2020-21 and support strategic, well-informed decisions.

  • State Budget Reductions and Enrollment (Tuition) Shortfalls ($58 million base)
  • The primary source for core fund support is state appropriations and student tuition. The state has reduced the appropriation for UC Davis by $45 million in the 2020-21 budget (base reduction). Total fall undergraduate enrollment was almost 500 students below our target, of which, about 330 were national/international students. This results in a revenue loss of approximately $13 million compared to the budget. 

    Because the multi-year budget framework did not address the full pre-existing structural deficit in 2020-21, one-time bridging is needed to mitigate the accrued one-time debt. This was a known need prior to the pandemic and should be considered in the context of overall mitigation strategies.
  • COVID 19-Related Losses ($95 to $120 million one-time)
  • COVID-19 revenue losses and increased expenditures have not been evenly distributed across units. Auxiliary and other self-supporting units, along with certain research cores have experienced the greatest net losses and, in most cases, those losses are expected to grow. 

    Solutions to the specific needs of units will need to be tailored to their individual mission, business model and fund types. For example, solutions identified for auxiliaries or units that rely on internal recharge or self-supporting funds are likely to be different from those identified for academic units that rely largely on core funds and contracts and grants.
  • Campus Ready Operational Expenses ($20 to $50 million)
  • COVID-19 screening (testing), contact tracing, isolation and quarantine, cleaning and disinfection, and other campus responses are substantial and will likely continue throughout the academic year.
  • Supplemental Funding to Support Remote Instruction ($0.5 to $1.5 million)
  • The Provost authorized an investment of $1 million in additional instructional support for undergraduate courses to provide the best possible remote experience during fall and winter quarters. These funds are expected to largely be used for additional TA and Reader support.
  • COVID-Impacted Research Program (up to $1 million)
  • The Provost approved a COVID-Impacted Research Program that provides grants to early-career faculty to hire up to two quarters of GSR support to address lost research productivity. Program details are available from the Office of Research.
  • Scientific Recharge Mitigation ($5 to $10 million)
  • Although research activity was curtailed in early response to state and county directives, much of the expense associated with research infrastructure provided through research cores, vivaria, and similar operations that recharge extramural contracts and grants, continued. While some of the revenue may be recaptured as research continues to ramp up, certain revenue will be foregone.
  • Capital, Deferred Maintenance and IT Infrastructure Investments ($75 to $150 million over two to three years)
  • Despite the emergent budget shortfalls, one of the greatest risks that continues for UC Davis is underinvestment in infrastructure and capital needs. This lack of state investment has been made up in recent years through campus funding actions, including bonding to support investment. Further, as part of budget actions for FY 2020-21, the state swept $11 million of previously authorized one-time deferred maintenance funds. Capital and deferred maintenance investments must continue. Similarly, a number of critical enterprise systems are reaching the end of their useful life and investments must be maintained.
  • Net Losses from Course Materials and Service Fee Waivers ($0.6 to $1.2 million)
  • Campus leadership decided to waive Course Materials and Service Fees for students during the quarters when instruction is primarily remote. However, in some cases departments provided materials to students that would have been funded with these fees, or will incur losses from materials bought prior to the quarter that expire (e.g. chemicals or biological materials). Funding has been set aside to cover net expenditures that would typically have been covered by course material fees, as well as shipping of materials beginning in the fall quarter.