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Budgets and Planning Questions and Answers

Table of Contents

How do NIH institutes plan and implement their budgets?

NIH budget planning and implementation spans a three-year cycle. Read more at NIAID Funding Opportunity Planning and the Budget Cycle. For current budget information, go to our Paylines and Funding portal.

Who sets NIAID's funding level and appropriates our dollars, and how does this work?

Congress appropriates our funds. Before that happens, NIAID prepares a budget justification that goes to NIH, HHS, and OMB. It then becomes part of the Department's budget justification, which is part of the President's budget request to Congress for the next fiscal year.

As NIH is part of the executive branch of the federal government, NIH defends the President's budget before Congress during the appropriations hearings in March or April. Congress then prepares and must pass its own appropriations legislation, which the president must sign into law. Read more in NIAID Funding Opportunity Planning and the Budget Cycle.

What's the difference between authorizations and appropriations?

Enacted annually, appropriations bills give federal agencies the authority to spend a defined amount of money for specified purposes.

Authorizations laws allow appropriations for a program or an agency for a year or more but do not indicate an amount of money. For more information, go to Appropriations Set the Dollars.

What are earmarks, and how do they affect NIH institutes?

Earmarks require agencies to spend monies on targeted programs, which can affect their budgets. See our Glossary definition of earmark.

Who's on NIH's authorization and appropriations committees and subcommittees?

Find links to these committees at Budget Resolutions Lay a Foundation.

When is the beginning of the fiscal year?

The fiscal year begins on October 1. However, Congress often does not pass an appropriations bill until later in the fall or even later. During that interim period, NIH operates under a continuing resolution. See When We Don't Get a Budget.

What's a continuing resolution?

When Congress fails to pass an appropriations bill by the end of the fiscal year, it passes a continuing resolution to provide budget authority for federal agencies to continue operating until regular appropriations are enacted.

Do institutes start funding grants at the start of the fiscal year?

Minimally, because Congress usually has not yet passed NIH's appropriations bill. When a continuing resolution is in effect, we award a limited number of new grants and generally fund existing grants at a lower dollar level than the previous year. Find more information in When We Don't Get a Budget.

Why is there so little information on NIAID's budget page at some points during the fiscal year?

At the end of the fiscal year, we take down the paylines from Paylines and Funding and archive them at Archive of Final NIAID Paylines by Fiscal Year.

At the beginning of a new fiscal year, we have limited budget and financial management plan information to post on the site until NIAID receives its appropriation from Congress and our budget office formulates our new budget. NIAID often starts the fiscal year operating under an interim payline that allows us to award only a limited number of grants.

Applicants and grantees should check our Paylines and Funding page often. You can receive email notifications of fiscal year paylines if you Subscribe to Email Alerts and select the "Fiscal Year Paylines" interest category.

When does NIAID post new payline information?

Because the timing varies each year, we cannot give you exact dates for posting new payline information.

Even after Congress passes the appropriations bill, it takes several weeks for the final budget levels to get to us and for our budget office to evaluate the legislation and crunch the numbers to determine the fiscal year's paylines. Other uncertainties may also delay our ability to set paylines.

To help you know what to expect, we've created Paylines and Budget Pages Change Throughout the Year. You can receive email notifications of fiscal year paylines if you Subscribe to Email Alerts and select the "Fiscal Year Paylines" interest category.

What is an interim payline?

NIAID uses interim paylines as a way to award the best-scoring grants while we wait for the information we need to set our true paylines. At NIAID, we set interim paylines conservatively so we don't inadvertently exceed our future budget levels.

Where do most of NIAID's monies go?

NIAID spends most of its funds on investigator-initiated research at organizations such as universities and nonprofit research foundations. For grants data, go to RePORT.

Where can I find more on concepts and initiatives?

Go to our High-Priority Topics: Concepts and Initiatives and RFAs, PAs, and Solicitations questions and answers. Read more about the process in Planning Research Opportunities on NIAID Funding Opportunity Planning and the Budget Cycle.

Where do I find the inflation factor for grants?

Our financial management plan often includes information on inflationary increases for noncompeting grants awards. NIAID publishes its own Financial Management Plan, posted on our Paylines and Funding portal, which includes the NIH plan and other items.

Though your organization may ask for any escalation factor it wishes, we may award only up to the set amount. In some years, institutes decrease funds for noncompeting grants.

Can an institution apply an inflation rate to its budget on competing grant applications?

No, NIAID does not allow unjustified direct cost escalations. Here, “unjustified” is used in the sense that the cost escalation is not explained in the budget justification based on research aims. This goes for cost of living increases for all budget categories, to include personnel. You must spell out increases in the budget justification.

Here's an example of a justified out-year increase for a direct cost item: a grantee requested cost for 200 mice in year one of the grant, but the next year (year two), the grantee’s plan will need 600 mice. Because the increased number of mice is based on the research aims/plan, the direct cost increase to pay for the additional mice in year two is justified.

Conversely, listing different requested costs in the application budget for the same amount of mice in year one and year two would be an unjustified direct cost escalation.

We do allow grantees to rebudget in out-years to account for pay escalation, but we will not increase committed funding.

Where can I find questions and answers about grant budgets?

Go to Managing a Grant questions and answers. For more information, read Plan Your Budget in the Strategy for NIH Funding.

What if my question wasn't answered here, or I'd like to suggest a question?

Email with the title of this page or its URL and your question or comment. We answer questions by email and post them here. Thanks for helping us clarify and expand our knowledge base.

Last Updated April 18, 2016

Last Reviewed April 18, 2016