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Business and Financial Policies and Procedures

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  • Open Comment Period: October 02 - 16, 2018

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holman1@illinois.edu Oct 4, 2018 11:53 am

We currently provide the guidance to our staff that this method of lodging is not an allowable TCard charge. We would like to see guidance on how to enter these reimbursements in TEM, i.e service fees and cleaning fees. There needs to be more specific language to the policy on these additional fees (service/cleaning), in some cases these fees exceed the actual daily room rate within these rental brokers. A required hotel rate comparable would show if the Airbnb is more economical than the hotel. Please also use VRBO as an example for a quick search method on OBFS. It is presumed by travelers that these lodging brokers are less expensive than hotels and this is not always the case.

sfleisch@uic.edu Oct 3, 2018 8:24 pm

As practically all the other comments here point out, Airbnb is very often by far the cheapest way to stay in a place:  both directly (room for room, it's almost always cheaper than a hotel) and indirectly (it allows one to economize on meals, and to have a good workspace at home rather than having to hunt for one in a  new city).  To bar it from the T-card seems absurd, and contrary to the University's stated interest in economizing.  At the very least, we should be given a rationale for the policy.  Simply declaring it from on high is a display of the worst blind and inept bureaucratic behavior.

marissam@illinois.edu Oct 3, 2018 3:05 pm

Our department has grad students that spend months at a time on research trips across the country and around the world, and have found AirBnB to be by the far cheapest way to stay. Then you must take into consideration there are 4 or 5 of them going. Also, since you can't pay for someone else's lodging, and hotels and brokers usually can't spread or are unwilling to split the receipt between 2-4 people, it only makes sense we pay with a T-Card as paying $1200-1500 for a month of lodging for 4 people is way more cost efficient than paying $150-225 a night in a hotel for each of them to share rooms. Even on short trips to conferences it is still cheaper to stay in AirBnb than to book a hotel, even if it is the conference hotel.


They try to economize as much as possible and many of the policies make that difficult or impossible. It is not in the interest of the University to make them spend more money on a hotel. They are instructed to find the most economical option when booking travel and this policy contradicts that instruction.

orzek@illinois.edu Oct 3, 2018 12:00 pm

Prohibiting our using a t-card to pay for Airbnb's seems unreasonable.  I have faculty and students both that choose an Airbnb because it is much more economical, even with the cleaning fee and use fee.  Other lodging options are much more expensive and it seems an inappropriate use of funds to "require" the traveler to spend more money, sometimes double the amount, just to avoid using an Airbnb.  I have submitted an exception form only to have it take weeks and weeks to get approved and by then the Airbnb deal is no longer available.  Allowing t-card holders to pay for Airbnb's seem to make more sense that paying excessive amounts of money all in the name of "not using an Airbnb".  Besides, this is the current trend in the market and we need to stay up with the times. 

mblumtha@illinois.edu Oct 3, 2018 11:44 am

Please do not take this option away with the T-card. For short-term study abroad programs, the use of Airbnb Apartments has been a low-cost alternative, and it's unreasonable to think that the faculty member traveling with students would have to bear this cost, nor the fact that it has to be made so fare in advance. I don't know what problem this solves.

tduzan@illinois.edu Oct 3, 2018 9:44 am

I find that the restrictions place a rather large burden on employees. I personally, don't have the excess cash to pay up front and then wait to be reimburse. Additionally, most of the time this is saving the University money. Many of the "restricted" purchases are much more cost effective than the approved ones, which doesn't seem to make sense from a money managing sense. I think by being open to newer options, we could all be more frugal with spending. 

cabrelli@uic.edu Oct 2, 2018 4:18 pm

Making a reservation several months in advance and having to put it on a personal credit card incurs interest charges that an employee should simply not have to pay in order to book lodging that is saving the state money. I am not willing to pay interest on business travel and will be much more likely to spend more on a hotel to avoid having to wait months for reimbursement. 

frednhgn@illinois.edu Oct 2, 2018 4:05 pm

What problem is this proposed policy attempting to solve or prevent?  An explanation in the proposal document would be helpful.  

xbada@uic.edu Oct 2, 2018 3:14 pm

Please do not take away the option to save on taxpayer dollars by using the most economical option when doing fieldwork or when travelling to attend conferences. Airbnb is the most economical option for extended travel and if the problem is the extra fees that they charge, maybe some changes can be done to the reimbursement forms on TEM to accommodate Airbnb receipts. I don´t see why we need to cancel an option only because the reconciliation on TEM is not standard. Few faculty have large amounts of disposable income to pay Airbnb deposits in advance without having to pay interest to their personal credit cards. It is now very convenient to have the possibility of spending our research funds by securing the most economical means of travel in advance. We are willing to forgo daily housekeeping in exchange of substantial savings on our research funds so I don´t understand why the administration would want to ask the faculty to return to old reimbursement systems when using the most economical lodging option. It would be perceived as a punishment to many who use this option to save on lodging costs.

janak1@illinois.edu Oct 2, 2018 3:13 pm

Prohibiting this type of expense on T-Cards would only cause more confusion and errors, and I'm not sure what the benefit would be since the expense would still be allowable as an employee reimbursement. Airbnb or similar services often offer the most affordable lodging choice (even with service and cleaning fees included), but if employees are forced to pay up front with their own funds, this this might lead them to just opt for a hotel, when they could have instead saved the University money by opting for Airbnb. I review hundreds of lodging expense reports each year, and have never had an issue with Airbnb vs. hotel lodging. This would also undoubtedly cause many T-card violations because cardholders would likely forget that these lodging expenses are only allowable as employee reimbursements. Please do not make this policy change.

jmoor@illinois.edu Oct 2, 2018 3:04 pm

I agree with many that AirBNB and other rentals are cheaper for the long haul and many students are on a fixed budget. It seems contradictory to have a policy to choose the least expensive method but then not use T-card to do it. How can you have it both ways? Also Medical Scholars program students travel and do week or month long rotations and can use an entity called "Rotation Room.com" and merely jump in where another student has left. No contract, just one flat fee for the duration. No daily breakdowns, etc. It would cost them at least double or triple for a stay in a hotel. Its part of the promise of their education. There should be a way to get this done. I would also like to be able to send an email for help in a matter and get a real answer or example on how to process said issue, not some nonsense like please see 7.2. of the obfs yadda, yadda. We have already been to the website and looked for answers and now want a way to complete our task and get it through.

cdiaz3@uic.edu Oct 2, 2018 1:43 pm

Airbnb have been very helpful for our grant objectives to provide training on the Americans with Disabilities in the midwest region.  Our grant requires to travel the Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin to provide training to businesses, educators and individuals on their rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act.  Some remote areas do not have hotels or other corporate contracted options  and staff are forced to use Airbnb.  I think discretion needs to be used for such cases.

cadillma@illinois.edu Oct 2, 2018 1:36 pm

I agree with the policy in prohibiting the use of a TCard.  It is a nightmare to reconcile these charges and there are usually non-employees involved as well as extra fees such as cleaning fees involved.  I agree that reimbursement is the proper way to handle these types of charges but it needs to be made clear in the policy the appropriate way to handle.  The charges should be split between the people that are staying and each should pay their own share and submit a reimbursement.  It is much cleaner that way.  This is a very economical alternative for employees to use when traveling so we need to make the reimbursement process as efficient as possible.    Also, in using these types of brokers for personal travel I know that it usually has to be booked months in advance and a deposit has to be made. Paying out of pocket and being reimbursed is the most appropriate method for handling these types of charges.

jmwright@illinois.edu Oct 2, 2018 1:27 pm

Our department has grad students that spend months at a time on research trips across the country and around the world, and have found AirBnB to be the far cheapest way to stay- especially when there are 4 or 5 of them going.  And since you can't pay for someone else's lodging, and brokers usually can't spread the cost, it only makes sense we pay with a T-Card as paying $1200 for a month of lodging for 4 people is way more cost efficient than paying $220 a night in a hotel for each of them to share rooms.  Even on short trips to conferences or the like it is still far cheaper to stay in AirBnb than to book a hotel- even if it is the conference hotel.  

cooper21@illinois.edu Oct 2, 2018 1:07 pm

This updated policy seems like it would only cause issues with employees no longer being able to pay for the most economical lodging option that is available if the T-card is no longer an option for payment. The policy simultaneously does not solve any known problem, since all employees will still have the option to book lodging through these services and be reimbursed. This will at minimum cause confusion and frustration for all parties involved (both the traveler and all those who will process the expenses) for no functional reason.

arsias@uic.edu Oct 2, 2018 12:41 pm

Dear Team,
For researchers who don't have many financial resources, AirBnB provides an inexpensive way to stretch State funds to conduct their work or attend conferences.  Perhaps the University can negotiate with AirBnB or another vendor as "preferred" so as to eliminate the security deposit, etc.

jvais@uic.edu Oct 2, 2018 12:38 pm

Our Department supports graduate students to travel to research conference and often times we pay for their logding in advance with a T Card as to not have them pay out of pocket since many are limited on funds.  To not allow us to use our T Card for this would cause financial hardship for students to pay in advance and then wait for a reimbursement.  Students often use these types of lodging as a way to save money due to the limited resources they have have to pay for travel.  

jfishe3@uic.edu Oct 2, 2018 12:32 pm

Hi,

 

prohibiting the use of a Tcard to purchase an Airbnb would be a huge inconvenience. The lodging rate is only $110 and it is hard to find reasonable hotels within that rate, within the markets we are trying to recruit students. Often times Airbnb’s provide reasonably priced and safe locations to stay, in order to conduct university business.

 

Waiting for reimbursements to kick in when often times we are in hotels for weeks on end is just not feasible. The lack of funds can severely impact the financial stability for entry level college recruiters. It is my hope that the university continues to remain forward thinking versus staying stagnant in a belief that lodging can only be through expensive hotel chains. I truly hope the university system does not pass this as it would drastically inconvenience the recruitment efforts of the universities as we aim for a more national reach. 

sabas@illinois.edu Oct 2, 2018 12:23 pm

(I thought this was already prohibited.)

Sometimes Airbnb is the cheapest way to stay in an area. When a traveller has done research and found a way to save money, it seems unfair to insist that they pay their own money upfront and wait for reimbursement in order to save someone else money. In the event that the traveller does not have money up front (usually the case with graduate student employee), we may put travelers in a position of having to waste money to secure up-front T-Card payment when no personal funds are available.

ralpern@uic.edu Oct 2, 2018 12:23 pm

This policy doesn't make sense to me.  We want employees to search for the cheapest options but making them pay upfront is a disincentive. 

What is even more confusinig is why we would allow reimbursement but not a direct t-card charge.  If there is a rental agreement involved the employee would sign it whether they get reimbursed or use a t-card.  Legally I don't think it makes a difference whether the employee is reimbursed or pays with T-card.  Either way they are performing University business while in travel status. 

Lastly, this will create more work for payables.  Isn't one of the main reasons for using a T-card to reduce the load on payable?

bievenue@illinois.edu Oct 2, 2018 12:16 pm

While I certainly understand the higher risk of fraud with these services, to not allow a t-card purchase at all makes group lodging quite difficult.  Groups in my unit have traveled to rural locations where any kind of lodging is sparse, but safe quality lodging is especially difficult to find.  On more than one occasion the most cost effective option was to book through one of these services.  When this is for group travel, who should pay for it up front?  The students?  Even well-paid staff cannot afford to have a large expense like that on their credit card...besides the high cost for group lodging, often reservations and payments need to be made months in advance so that charge would cost the employee interest on top of using up their credit.  I would understand if additional approval was required in advance of such a purchase, but to not allow it all is not in the best interests of the university.

bct@uic.edu Oct 2, 2018 12:10 pm

I just added a comment and it is not there!

Many of our faculty have limited travel and research funds available to them and they are forced to restrict and economize as much as possible. They only use airBNB and similar services to save money and make travel and research possible.  Please do not take away this option. And why would you make it such that " Reimbursements will not be made for damage or security deposits"??  This is not in the interest of the University because it will lead to less efficient use of University resources.

bct@uic.edu Oct 2, 2018 12:05 pm

Faculty use airbnb (and similar services) to save money. Why would you want to keep them from doing so?  Why would you say that "Reimbursements will not be made for damage or security deposits"??  Many faculty have extremely limited travel and research funds available to them. They try to economize as much as possible and many of your policies make that difficult or impossible. It is not in the interest of the University to make them spend MORE money on lodging by forcing them to stay in a hotel instead of a place like airbnb.