Paying for Award Costs

Once the PI has worked with ORSP to set up a budget for the project, they can usually begin spending. All expenditures on a project must correspond to an approved spending category in the budget approved by the funding agency (as received in the award notification letter). Typical ways to spend grant funds include paying people, travel and hospitality expenses, and the purchase of project-related equipment and supplies. There are multiple mechanisms that can be used to spend grant funds, depending upon what is being paid for or purchased.

Common Award Costs


Travel expenses are the expenses for transportation, lodging, subsistence, and related items incurred by employees who are in travel status on official business of SSU. Travel expenses for sponsored programs administered by SSU are subject to CSU/SSU Travel Policies and Information. Prior to travel, travelers should review these policies and procedures.

Travel expenses charged to sponsored awards may be charged on an actual cost basis, on a per diem basis or mileage basis in lieu of actual costs incurred, or on a combination of the two, provided the method used is applied to an entire trip and not to selected days of the trip, and results in charges consistent with those normally allowed in like circumstances in SSU's non-sponsored award activities and in accordance with SSU's written travel reimbursement policies.

Travel should be a budget item in an award agreement for it to be an allowable cost. If a Principal Investigator (PI/PD) determines travel is necessary on an award where travel is not a budgeted item, the PI/PD should work with ORSP to determine if sponsor approval is required.

Claims for travel reimbursement should be submitted directly to Seawolf Services with the completed Travel Expense Claim, required receipts, and required approvals/signatures. For first time or infrequent travelers, ORSP may assist you in completing the required forms. However, the traveler is responsible for obtaining all preapprovals, retaining required receipts, obtaining form approvals/signatures, and submitting the reimbursement claim to Seawolf Services.

Most importantly, the traveler is responsible for complying with CSU/SSU travel policies and procedures and complying with travel restrictions outlined in the terms and conditions of any sponsored award agreement.

  • Domestic Travel Approval: For travel occurring on or after November 1, 2015, pre-approval of domestic travel is no longer a campus requirement for employees. The approval requirement for employees rests with the traveler’s organizational unit as to whether it’s required; the official who will ultimately be signing the traveler’s travel claim will notify the travelers in that unit as to whether the pre-approval will be an internal departmental form, an email, etc. The approving official will attest that the pre-approval was received when signing and approving the Travel Expense Claim after the trip. Non-employee travel, however, still requires approval prior to the trip. 
  • International Travel: Requires pre-approval by the President, utilization of the Foreign Travel Insurance Program (FTIP), and enrollment in the Safe Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). The International Travel Authorization/Travel Advance form is required for international travel and must be completed in advance of the trip and submitted to the Seawolf Service Center before a Travel Expense Claim can be processed. For more information about this process, visit the Seawolf Service Center website: CSU Guidelines for International Travel for less than 30 days. Note that International Travel Authorization forms must be signed by the President.
  • Receipts: Original itemized receipts are required for all travel expenses of $75 or more.
  • Meals: 
    • Within the Contiguous U.S. (lower 48 states): These include actual meal expenses, which may be reimbursed up to $55.* (* Excluding alcohol; this is non-reimbursable.) The meals reimbursement cap should not be treated as a per diem. See Appendix D of the CSU Travel Procedures.
    • Within Alaska, Hawaii & U.S. Possessions - Federal Per Diem for meals and incidentals for the specific location, with no receipts required.* (* Excluding alcohol; this is non-reimbursable.) See Appendix D of the CSU Travel Procedures.
    • Internationally: Federal Per Diem for meals and incidentals for specific locations, with no receipts required.* (* Excluding alcohol; this is non-reimbursable.) See Appendix D of the CSU Travel Procedures.
  • Lodging: 
    • Within the 50 U.S. states & U.S. Possessions): These include actual expenses which are reimbursed with an original itemized receipt required. The CSU maximum rate for United States travel, including Alaska, Hawaii, and US possessions is $275 per night, excluding taxes, and is effective for travel occurring on or after November 1, 2015. If you are staying with a friend, relative or family member during travel, you may be eligible to receive a non-cash gift up to $75. (limited to one reimbursable gift per stay).
    • Internationally: Federal Per Diem amount for specific location, no receipts required.
  • Private Vehicle Use: When using a private vehicle for University business, CSU employees must have a current State of California form STD. 261: Authorization to Use Privately Owned Vehicles on State Business on file. Current mileage reimbursement rate is $.535 per mile.
  • Tipping: For transportation related expenses (taxis, shuttles, and valet parking) are reimbursed as part of the transportation costs. Tips for meals are reported as part of meals. Tips may be reimbursed up to 20% of the total bill.
  • Incidental expenses: This may include fees for baggage carriers, hotel housekeeping, and hotel staff that are customary in travel and not included on other bills. Incidental reimbursements will be based on actual amounts incurred up to $7 per calendar day and only when travel includes an overnight stay.

Please note that the above attempts to outline some of the most common aspects of travel related to sponsored programs. Please review carefully and refer to SSU Travel Policies and Information for more information. If you have questions, please contact ORSP.


Hospitality expenses charged to sponsored awards are subject to CSU/SSU policies and procedures for hospitality. Please review the SSU Hospitality Expenses policy prior to incurring hospitality expenses. Employee-only hospitality expenses are not allowed for sponsored awards unless the terms and conditions of an award expressly state that such expenses are allowed. The following FAQ summarizes some of the key points of the Hospitality Expenses Policy as they relate to sponsored awards:

Does the Hospitality Policy apply to sponsored programs?

Yes. The policy in its entirety applies to sponsored programs. However, certain parts of the policy apply to specific funding sources. The tables at the end of the policy provides summary requirements for sponsored programs and other funding sources.

Are sponsored programs required to complete the hospitality form?

Yes. All hospitality events and related expenses must be documented on the hospitality form. Any hospitality expenses submitted for payment must be accompanied by a completed hospitality form.

Do hospitality events and related expenses require prior approval before the hospitality event occurs?

Pre-approval is not required for hospitality events where official guests (generally, non-employees) are present. However, if you request payment before an event through the Procurement Office, the form must be completed, signed and included with the EREQ submitted to the Procurement Office. Rarely is it appropriate to use sponsored program funds for employee-only hospitality events.

Can I use blanket hospitality forms for frequently recurring hospitality events?

No, hospitality forms for events are event specific and a new one must be submitted for each one.

Who can sign/approve the hospitality form?

For hospitality events with official guests, individuals with signature authority for the sponsored program may sign/approve the hospitality form. However, an individual may not approve a hospitality form for which the individual is seeking reimbursement.

What are the account codes I should use for hospitality?

There are four accounts that can be used for hospitality. They are noted on the form: 660922, 660923, 622901, and 622902 – 622901 and 622902 are specifically for sponsored programs with program participant hospitality expenses. Care should be taken to ensure the correct account code is used. Hospitality expenses submitted for payment that not coded to one of these four accounts will be returned for correct coding.

How will the revised policy affect travel for program participants led by SSU employees?

The policy itself will not affect travel for program participants led by SSU employees. However, it should be noted that travel-related costs covered by your project for participants is considered hospitality. This includes lodging, food, snacks, cultural/sporting event tickets, and other items purchased for the participants using project funds. All of these items are subject to the policy and the form requirements.

There is a change to the administrative process of settling travel reimbursement claims for participant travel led by an SSU employee. The SSU employee settling the claims (i.e. completing the Travel Expense Claim form – “claimant”) must separate her/his personal travel expenses from those being claimed for participants and, if applicable, other SSU employees. The claimant’s expenses must be recorded as if they are for individual travel – not included in the lump sum under BUSINESS EXPENSE.

If expenses are being settled for other SSU employees, a memo from the other employees must be attached the claim specifically stating the employee will not seek reimbursement for any expenses included on the claimant’s reimbursement form and that expenses incurred on behalf of the employee comply with the SSU travel policy.

Goods and Services

There are four primary methods to purchase goods and services:


  • Goods:  The use of the ProCard for goods is subject to the cardholder’s limit and the use must adhere to the ProCard Handbook.

  • Services:  The use of the ProCard for services is limited to $1,000 per transaction.  The ProCard cannot be used if a contract is required.

Direct Pay/Direct Invoice

  • Goods:  The Direct Pay/Direct Invoice method may be used for goods up to $500.

  • Services:  The Direct Pay/Direct Invoice method may be used up to $2,500 as long as a contract is not required.

EREQ Request/Purchase Order

All purchases not included in the ProCard and Direct Pay/Direct Invoice methods must follow the EReq Request/Purchase Order method.

Employee Business Expenses Reimbursement (EBER)

  • The EBER is used for petty cash replenishment and out-of-pocket business expenses (non-travel) up to $500

  • The EBER is not used for equipment, registrations or services

  • All receipts must be in the employees name claiming reimbursement.

Contract Guidelines

Many purchases require a contractual agreement between SSU and the supplier of the good or service.

Principal Investigators/Project Directors (PIs/PDs) should consult with their Project Administrator (PA) to determine if a contract is necessary. If a contract is required, the PA can assist the PI/PD in initiating the contract via the EREQ process.

A contract is required if the answer to any of the following questions is Yes:

  • Is the supplier a one-person operation? (Honoraria- non-SSU employees does not require a contract)
  • Is the supplier coming to campus to perform work?
  • Will the supplier services involve modification, including construction, alteration, painting, repair or improvement, to any state structure, building, road or other improvement of any kind?
  • Will the supplier services require use of hazardous chemicals or involve disturbance or removal of hazardous materials such as asbestos or lead?
  • Are the purchases charged to sponsored funds and are the services for clinical research, material transfer, or do they involve human subjects?
  • Is there a requirement for milestone deliverables and/or specific milestone deliverable dates?
  • Is there a requirement for services to be completed in accordance with a firm schedule?
  • Are the services for a commissioned work?
  • Are there data usage and ownership requirements?
  • Is the expenditure for loan of equipment or other tangible items?

Please note that all contracts must be reviewed by Contracts and Procurement prior to signature.  University contracts can only be signed by the President, CFO, Purchasing Department Buyers, and AVP for Financial Services. 

ORSP is available to assist PIs/PDs in accessing any of the purchasing services noted above. PIs/PDs should contact their PA for further assistance.

School Administrative Managers and staff may also be able to assist PIs/PDs in making purchases.

Gift Cards

Pre-authorization is required to purchase a gift card for a student or participant who take part in a research project or complete a survey or questionnaire.  Gift cards may be purchased through Procard, EREQ or Wolfbucks.  Compensation for research/survey participation must be reported to the IRS only if compensation exceeds $50.  If it is Human Subjects Research, IRB approval is required. 

Gift Card Limits and Process

Procard under $50
  • Procard Report
  • Hospitality Form
  • PI is responsible for the safekeeping of all gift cards
  • Name of each recipient*

Students, participants

NO employees

EREQ $50 and above
  • EREQ
  • Gift Card Form
  • 204 Form – Name, Address & Social Security number
  • Hospitality Form
  • Name of each recipient

Students, participants

NO employees


WolfBucks gift cards;

WolfBucks added to student accounts

1. Fill out a hospitality form and include the quantity of gift cards desired and the specific amounts.

2. Once the hospitality form is signed by the appropriate signer, purchase Wolfbucks gift cards through the Sonoma State University Box Office online, over the phone at (707) 664-4246, or in person at the Info + Tickets Desk located on the first floor of the Student Center. 

3. An email will be sent within 1-3 business days when funds have been added to the Wolfbucks gift cards. 

Students, employees


Additional Notes

Students: If students are eligible for gift cards because they are an SSU student, the gift cards must be reported to Financial Aid. If the population receiving the gift cards includes anyone other than SSU students, the gift cards for SSU students do not need to be reported to Financial Aid.

Surveys: The content of a survey may remain confidential; however, a separate gift card list of recipients must be maintained by Principal Investigator (PI) for internal records.  The PI must maintain a log of who received a gift card, the amount and date.  The gift cards must be kept in a secure location and accounted for the same as cash.  Please refer to Cash Handling Procedures for details:

Step By Step



  • For $50 and above, an EREQ must be completed through Procurement.
  • Additional forms required:
    • Gift Card Form – Requires name
    • 204 Form – Requires name
    • Hospitality Form
  • A separate list of recipients must be kept for internal records by the PI
  • For required forms can be found here:


  • Complete a Hospitality Form and include the quantity of gift cards desired and the specific amounts.
  • Once the Hospitality Form is approved by the appropriate signer, scan and email to:
  • When the Hospitality Form is received, gift cards will be sent to the person who completed the hospitality form.
  • Once gift cards are received by the person who submitted the Hospitality Form, they must send an email to and include that the cards were received as well as the number on the cards (located on the back of the cards; starts with 999). An email confirmation is required before funds can be added.
  • An email will be sent within 1-3 business days when funds have been added to the WolfBucks gift cards.