Anyone who travels on official business for the Federal Government is expected to do so in a responsible manner and be prudent in incurring expenses.
A Federal employee on official business is expected to use the same care in incurring expenses that he or she would exercise if traveling on personal business.
Traveler Roles and Responsibilities
Travelers on official Government business must:
Perform official travel, as approved on a travel authorization.
Use an individually-billed Government-sponsored travel charge card for all chargeable expenses associated with official travel.
Learn and abide by Federal and FEMA policies and procedures governing official travel.
Limit ATM travel advance amounts to estimated meals and incidental expenses that cannot be charged to the Government travel card.
Use the services of the Travel Management Center for all travel-related services.
Submit a travel voucher for approval within 5 days after completion of travel; or every 14 days when on extended travel.
Promptly pay the travel charge card contractor for amounts charged on the travel charge card.
The remainder of this course will present information about these responsibilities.
Direct Deposit for Travel Vouchers
Travelers on official Government travel should enroll in direct deposit for travel voucher reimbursement.
Note this is a separate process from direct deposit for payroll. Refer to your Human Capital Representative for payroll direct deposit.
Authorizing/Approving Official Roles and Responsibilities
The travel authorizing/approving official does the following for the traveler before departure:
Authorizes and approves travel in support of the FEMA mission.
Ensures that travel is carried out as efficiently and effectively as possible.
Ensures that employees who are expected to travel two or more times a year, or on extended temporary duty, receive an individually-billed Government-sponsored travel charge card (Federal Government employees).
An approved authorization is required prior to departure on travel for official Government business. Note that the travel authorization allows a traveler to incur certain travel expenses. Without the authorization, the traveler will be responsible for any unauthorized expenses. Scroll down and review the elements included in a typical travel authorization.
As part of travel for official business, the traveler will get a travel allowance. The travel allowance ensures that:
The “essential needs” of Federal employees are met while on official travel for the Government.
All Federal employees are treated with fairness in lodging, meals, and incidental expenses.
Per Diem Rates
Per diem is a calculation:
Lodging + Meals + Incidental Expenses = Per Diem
The 48 Continental United States (CONUS) per diem rates are set by the General Services Administration. The other States and U.S. territories (Hawaii, Alaska, Guam, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, etc.,) are set by the Department of Defense.
All Foreign per diem rates are set by the U.S. Department of State.
Meals and Incidental Expenses
Meals and incidental expenses (M&IE):
Are reimbursed at a daily flat rate. No receipts are required.
Include a variable amount for meals based on location and an incidental expense amount limited to $5 per day.
Travel days, defined as the departure day from the traveler’s residence or official duty location and the return day to the traveler’s residence or official duty location, are reimbursed at 75% of the M&IE allowance for the duty site.
M&IE CONUS rates are set by GSA and vary in amount based on location. Current rates can be found on the GSA Web site.
The M&IE reimbursement may be reduced or disallowed if meals are being provided for FEMA employees.
On a disaster deployment, meals may be provided by the American Red Cross, military, FEMA, or other Federal agency. Meals may also be included as part of some conferences and meetings.
Travel Management Center: Making Reservations
When making travel reservations, the traveler should use the FEMA Travel Management Center (TMC). The TMC:
Will make reservations for lodging, rental car, and common carrier.
Will not issue tickets without an approved travel authorization.
IMPORTANT NOTE: The Federal Travel Regulation mandates that common carrier transportation be purchased through the agency TMC. Failure to do so may result in denial of reimbursement.
Uses the approved contract carriers for the cities involved.
Obtains guaranteed Government hotel/rental car rates.
Is knowledgeable about FEMA and Federal travel policies and regulations, including the requirement to purchase coach-class refundable tickets.
Issues e-tickets to avoid loss and added expense to FEMA.
Summary Of Information So Far: What To Know Before You Go
Let’s review what we’ve learned so far.
A travel authorization is authorized for the traveler regardless of the type. It is signed by the authorizing/approving official(s).
A traveler should obtain a copy of the approved authorization before travel begins or immediately after arrival at the designated duty location (often referred to as the temporary duty location (TDY)).
If authorized to rent a vehicle for official travel, the traveler must:
Obtain a waiver for the rental of any car other than a compact car.
Book the vehicle rental through the Travel Management Center.
Provide a valid receipt (required even if less than $75).
Be identified as the renter on the receipt.
It is important to remember that the duration of the rental must be within the approved travel period on the travel authorization.
Privately Owned Vehicles
The use of a privately owned vehicle (POV):
Cannot be mandated by the Federal Government.
Must be approved on the travel authorization.
Reimbursement for the use of a POV may not exceed the cost of common carrier travel. This means that if flying to the disaster site is less expensive than reimbursement for POV mileage, the traveler will be reimbursed up to the amount it would have cost to fly.
Allows a traveler to go to an alternate location, conduct official business, and return to the official duty station or residence within one business day.
Prohibits overnight lodging.
May be orally authorized.
Reimbursement for local travel is filed in a separate process, using a Local Voucher Form SF-1164. Some points to remember about local travel are as follows:
Disaster Assistance Employees living within a local travel radius of the disaster workplace or JFO are not eligible for mileage allowance from their residence to the workplace, nor are they entitled to per diem.
Receipts are handled in the same way as regular travel.
The reimbursement amount for lodging is authorized at the approved locality rate only.
Remember, lodging reservations must be made through the Travel Management Center. The TMC will obtain guaranteed Government hotel rates that are within the approved locality rate.
Current CONUS per diem rates are located on the GSA Web site.
Lodging Rate Waivers
Lodging rate increase waivers may be granted if there are no accommodations available within the approved per diem locality rate for the TDY location. Waivers must be requested prior to incurring the lodging expense.
Certain officials may grant approvals to exceed the approved lodging rates:
Approving Officials may authorize increases up to 150% over the approved rate for lodging.
Only the FEMA Chief Financial Officer may authorize lodging rate increases from 151% to 300% above the approved per diem.
The Federal Travel Regulation prohibits the authorization of rates above 300% of per diem.
Documentation to support any waivers granted should be readily available for any independent assessments and evaluations.
Other Reimbursable Expenses
Other expenses that may be eligible for reimbursement include:
Transportation to and from airports at authorized departure and destination cities.
Official phone calls.
Reimbursement for personal phone calls may only be authorized for employees that are not issued a FEMA phone or Blackberry.
Laundry, if actually incurred within the continental United States.
Gasoline obtained for authorized use of rental car.
Mileage for a privately owned vehicle.
Incidental expense allowances may be used to cover personal expenses including (but not limited to):
Hotel or airport luggage porter tips.
Laundry or dry cleaning in foreign locations.
Car washes, locksmith fees, towing services, and/or personal items (e.g., bug spray, sunscreen, clothing, medicines, etc.).
Such costs are ineligible for travel reimbursement.
Non-travel related items, including computers, paper supplies, electrical supplies, etc., are also ineligible for travel reimbursement. Lodging and meal expenses incurred by those performing local travel are ineligible for travel reimbursement.
What To Bring
Before starting a trip, travelers should make sure to bring:
A FEMA ID badge and driver’s license.
A copy of the travel authorization.
The Federal travel charge card to pay for official travel expenses such as hotel, car rental, and meals.
Personal cash or credit card to pay for personal expenses.
Lodging tax-exempt forms, if available.
Summary: Before You Travel
In conclusion, before traveling for official Government business, travelers must:
Receive a valid travel authorization.
Contact the Travel Management Center to make reservations for lodging, rental car, and common carrier, as allowed by the travel authorization.
Enroll in direct deposit for travel voucher reimbursement.
Federal Travel Charge Card
When on official travel, use of the Federal travel charge card is mandatory. The travel charge cards contain identifiers to obtain negotiated Government discounts for airfare and tax exemption.
The Federal travel charge card:
Will be in the traveler’s name and must not be used by any other person. The traveler is personally liable for all charges made on the travel charge card.
May be used only for authorized official travel and authorized travel-related expenses.
Must not be used for personal expenses at any time.
May have specific spending limits based on travel needs.
When an employee is attending a conference, all registration fees must have been pre-paid and coordinated with the training department.
A travel card cannot be used to pay conference fees when the employee is not in travel status.
Save Your Receipts — Required
While on travel, make sure to save receipts. Receipts for the following expenses must be attached to travel vouchers:
Common-carrier invoice (e.g., airline)
Fully paid lodging (hotel) receipt
Rental car receipt with traveler identified as the renter
Travel Management Center (TMC) fee
Any other expenses over $75
A lodging receipt must:
Show that the hotel room balance was fully paid. Note that electronic check-out does not provide a receipt showing that the traveler has paid for the room.
Identify the traveler as the customer.
Include dates that match the approved travel period on the travel authorization.
Lodging receipts are required regardless of the amount.
Summary: What To Do While There
When on official travel, use of the Federal travel charge card is mandatory. It may be used only for authorized official travel and authorized travel-related expenses, and must not be used for personal expenses at any time.
While on travel, make sure to save receipts. Receipts for expenses must be attached to travel vouchers. Lodging receipts must show that the hotel room balance was fully paid.
When You Return From Official Travel
The form used to present a travel claim for expenses is often called a travel voucher. When filling out a travel voucher, the traveler should make sure to:
Complete and submit the travel voucher immediately, within 5 calendar days, after returning from official travel. If on extended travel, a voucher must be completed and submitted at least every 2 weeks.
Use the amount reimbursed to pay the travel charge card bill in full. The balance on the travel charge card bill must be paid in full before it becomes delinquent.
Enrollment in direct deposit is a key element in a timely voucher reimbursement.
Extended Deployments: Travel Vouchers
While deployed on a disaster or another extended assignment, filing a travel voucher every 2 weeks is encouraged by FEMA.
To prepare and file travel vouchers, the traveler should schedule an appointment with the Joint Field Office travel staff (for disaster travel) or use the approved voucher preparation tools located on the Office of the Chief Financial Officer (OFCO) Web site on the FEMA Intranet.
Review and Pay the Federal Travel Card Bill
A billing statement is sent once a month when using a Federal travel charge card. When receiving a billing statement of account, the traveler should verify all of the charges listed.
The full payment of undisputed charges is due to the bank by the date indicated on the bill. The total amount is due whether or not the traveler has been reimbursed by FEMA. There is no minimum payment that can be made to keep the account from becoming delinquent. In addition, if payment is not received in a timely manner, the card holder may lose charging privileges, which may adversely affect the ability to perform job responsibilities.
Remember To Include Receipts
When filing a travel voucher, the traveler must:
Include receipts for the following: Travel Management Center (TMC) fees, lodging, common carrier, rental car, etc.
Provide receipts for all claims over $75.
Support any unauthorized claims with approved written justification.
Itemize all miscellaneous claims (e.g., Internet usage, faxes, business calls, copies, etc.).
Checklist: When You Return
Below are the steps to take when returning from travel. Scroll through this list for a quick review.
Submit a travel voucher at least 5 days after returning to an official duty station or residence. Note: For those that remain in continuous travel status, it is recommended to submit a voucher every 2 weeks.
Include receipts with the voucher for the following expenses:
Travel Management Center (TMC) fees
Common carrier transportation
Lodging and lodging taxes
Expenses of $75 or more
Include the following other types of reimbursable expenses:
Transportation to and from airports at authorized departure and destination cities
Official phone calls
If you have been issued a FEMA phone or Blackberry, do not include personal phone calls, unless you can present justification for the expense.
Laundry, if actually incurred within the continental United States
Gasoline obtained for authorized use of rental car
Mileage for a privately owned vehicle (POV)
Do not include the following other types of non-reimbursable expenses:
Hotel or airport luggage porter tips
Laundry or dry cleaning in foreign locations
Car washes, locksmith fees, towing services, fuel surcharges, or car rental drop-off fees
Personal items (e.g., bug spray, sunscreen, clothing, medicines)
Non-travel items (e.g., computers, paper supplies, electrical supplies)
Expenses for other travelers or employees
Fuel for POV
Lodging and meals for those performing local travel
For questions regarding reimbursable items, travelers should contact their approving official for verification.