On May 15, 2020, the Prime Minister announced $450 million in funding to help Canada’s academic research community during the COVID-19 pandemic. The investment is designed to do the following.
- Provide wage supports to universities and health research institutes, so they can retain research staff who are funded from industry or philanthropic sources and are unable to access some of the government’s existing COVID-19 support measures. Initially the government committed to provide up to 75 per cent of the eligible portion of eligible research personnel’s wages, with a maximum of $847 per week for up to 12 weeks per individual, within the eligibility period of March 15, 2020 to August 29, 2020. The maximum period of support was later extended to a maximum of 24 weeks.
- Support universities and health research institutes to maintain essential research-related activities during the crisis, and to ramp back up to full research operations once physical distancing measures are eased. This will cover up to 75 per cent of total eligible costs, and will support activities such as the safe storage of dangerous substances, and restarting data sets that were interrupted during the pandemic.
The Canada Research Continuity Emergency Fund (CRCEF) was launched by the Tri-Agency Institutional Programs Secretariat (TIPS) a few weeks later on June 23, with details on Stages 1 and 2 (wage subsidy). Stages 3 and 4 were rolled out in September and October 2020.
Trillium Health Partners, a University of Toronto Affiliated Health Care Institution Benefiting from CRCEF
Collectively, the University of Toronto and its affiliated hospitals/research institutes undertake a significant portion of Canada’s academic research activity. The research enterprise at Trillium Health Partners has been severely impacted by COVID-19, and we are deeply appreciative that the Government of Canada has recognized this negative impact in the creation of the Canada Research Continuity Emergency Fund. This funding will help us to maintain staff and essential activities during the pandemic-related slowdown of, or interruption to, research and as we resume full research operations in new circumstances.
As a University of Toronto affiliated hospital, Trillium Health Partners is benefiting from the CRCEF allocations provided to the University of Toronto. A full list of additional University of Toronto affiliated health care institutions that are benefiting from CRCEF is available on University of Toronto web site.
University of Toronto Method of Distribution of CRCEF Funds to Trillium Health Partners
Stage 1, 2 & 4 Funding Distribution (wage support for eligible research personnel)
Upon confirmation by TIPS of program specifications for the CRCEF program, the University of Toronto and its Toronto Academic Health Science Network (TAHSN) affiliated institutions moved quickly to establish discussion tables to ensure coordination and consistency in responding to this important opportunity. As a TAHSN affiliated institution, Trillium Health Partners is actively engaged in this process as follows:
- we have active representation on and participate in the CRCEF Steering Committee established by the University of Toronto, comprising representatives of the hospital research institutes and the University,
- we have active representation on and participate in the TAHSN CRCEF Data Working Group, comprising financial/research operations representatives of each of the twelve TAHSN affiliated institutions.
Each group is diverse in its make-up and has some representation from equity seeking groups; in addition all members of each group have undertaken unconscious bias training.
The University undertook analysis to determine “notional allocations” across the 12 institutions, using to the full extent possible the CAUBO-informed formula/data applied by TIPS in determining our Stage 1 allocation of $41.6M. The allocations and supporting data were shared with affiliates. Open and transparent exchange of information has been a cornerstone of engagement throughout the process, consistent with our approach to all matters of shared interest over many years. Together, and in consultation with TIPS, the 12 institutions confirmed a common approach to determining CRCEF-eligible funding sources and FTE.
Given the timing of the receipt of the Stage 1 payment by TIPS to the University of Toronto, all twelve institutions were able to complete their Stage 1 and 2 eligible wage subsidy analyses, rendering data regarding the eligible head count and wage subsidy expense for both Stages 1 and 2. This enabled the University of Toronto to clarify the exact amounts required at each Stage for each institution. In a few cases, institutions required less than the CAUBO-informed Stage 1 amount, which was reallocated on a pro-rata basis to those institutions that required additional funds beyond the CAUBO-informed allocations. These actuals (and projections to 29 August 2020) were entered on the Convergence Portal by the University of Toronto confirming our shared need for the full $41.6M allocated to the TAHSN system in Stage 1, and an additional $9M sought through Stage 2. Trillium Health Partners has entered into an inter-institutional agreement with the University of Toronto to enable transfer of Trillium Health Partners proportionate share of CRCEF funds upon receipt from TIPS.
Stage 4 was launched by TIPS on September 30 with a national budget of $84M derived from unspent Stage 2 funds. Stage 4 provides additional wage support for eligible research-related personnel by increasing the maximum duration of support from 12 to 24 weeks. Given that there are no institutional allocations in Stage 4, all 12 TAHSN institutions engaged in data collection within their institutions on all eligible claims for a consolidated submission to TIPS by November 30. Awarded funds will be shared across the 12 institutions, prorated consistent with the national funding rate. At Trillium Health Partners, given the expectation that Stage 4 would be the first CRCEF stage where demand exceeded funds available, our data verification and review process includes the ability to flag any equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) considerations associated with each claim, should a selection/prioritization process become necessary. (See section 4, below.
Stage 3 Funding Distribution (direct costs of research incurred to (1) maintain essential research –related commitments during the pandemic and (2) support ramp-up to full research activities)
Stage 3 was launched by TIPS at the beginning of September with a national budget of $125M. Full details for this stage were confirmed at the beginning of October. Although there are notional allocations in Stage 3 ($18.6M for TAHSN, of which $27,080 is attributable to Trillium Health Partners), institutions are permitted to submit claims exceeding their allocation against the possibility of a supplemental allocation from the Program, should other institutions not require their full allocations. Again, TAHSN institutions, coordinating at the Vice-President Research and the Working Group tables, are undertaking their respective data collection for aggregate data consolidation and submission of an application by December 15th.
Trillium Health Partners data collection, verification and review process for Stage 3 involves an open call to the Trillium Health Partners research community and includes the ability to flag equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) considerations, on the assumption that demand will exceed funds available requiring prioritization review to inform decisions on allocation of funds received. (See section 4, below.)
Equity, Diversity & Inclusion in Trillium Health Partners Decision-making on CRCEF Funding
Through the active participation of members of Trillium Health Partners’ Research Senior Leadership team on both of the CRCEF Steering Committee (Senior Vice President Science and Chief Scientist) and TAHSN CRCEF Data Working Group (Corporate Manager, Research Operations & Project Management), Trillium Health Partners contributed to, supports and has employed the joint principles on use of CRCEF funds established in collaboration with all recipient TAHSN affiliated institutions in alignment with the CRCEF funding requirements.
Trillium Health Partners has a deep commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion in all institutional processes, policies and decision-making. At Trillium Health Partners, a respectful workplace is a positive, safe, and healthy environment that promotes mutual respect for the dignity and worth of each individual. Our commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion is upheld in our Respectful Workplace policy which provides the overarching structure to support the Trillium Health Partners Respectful Workplace Program that serves to:
- promote respectful interactions at Trillium Health Partners;
- set out expectations of respectful behaviour;
- define Respectful Workplace, Discrimination, Harassment and Bullying;
- clarify legislative requirements; and
- communicate key accountabilities and the course of action taken should a violation of this policy occur.
This policy is supplemented by Trillium Health Partners Declaration of Respect and the Trillium Health Partners Code of Conduct which includes our Criteria for Ethical Decision-Making and sets a standard for accountability, transparency, honesty, integrity and ethical behaviour.
This policy, our code of conduct, and the approaches used in making decisions on use of CRCEF funds have and continue to be made in good faith and in the best interest of Trillium Health Partners and those we serve.
In relation to decision-making on CRCEF, the Senior Vice President of Science, through the support of the Research Senior Leadership team, is overseeing the institutional approach to allocation of CRCEF funding to eligible claims. Decisions made on allocation of CRCEF are vetted and approved by the Trillium Health Partners COVID-19 Command Executive which comprises a diverse and representative cross-section of the hospitals clinical, administrative and enabling service divisions.
Decisions made on allocation of CRCEF are formulaic and equitable in the approach used to understand need, verify eligible expenses (personnel, projects and maintenance and ramp-up costs) and allocate funding. THP’s strategy for equity, diversity and inclusion in decision-making for the use of CRCEF funds fits within our Respectful Workplace Program that is incorporated into the numerous selection/allocation opportunities that are undertaken on a daily basis. Through this approach and for the CRCEF, we ensure the following:
- internal communications regarding the opportunity include language highlighting the commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion in managing CRCEF funds;
- anyone involved in determining what claims may be brought forward is required to have undertaken unconscious bias training, particularly where the need exceeds the funds provided;
- Decision-making processes recognize and value research that is non-traditional or unconventional, based in Indigenous ways of knowing, outside the mainstream of the discipline, or focused on issues of gender, race or minority status. This is achieved through various measures including:
- Unconscious bias training/resources
- The Research Senior Leadership team includes members with knowledge of research in a range of fields that focus on questions of gender, race, and sexuality, as well as community-engaged research; and
- Involving members of our Anti-Racism and Inclusion team in all decision-making processes used where the need exceeds the funds provided
- anyone involved in determining what claims may be brought forward is required to disclose any conflict of interest and recuse themselves from making and/or informing decisions on claims for which they have a conflicting interest; and
- decisions are not negatively affected by a researcher’s inability to work during the pandemic due to child/family care or increased risk related exposure to COVID-19.
For Stage 3 and 4 of the CRCEF program Trillium Health Partners adapted the data verification and review process to include the ability to flag any equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) considerations associated with each claim. In the Stage 3 open call to the research community identification of EDI considerations at the level of the researcher, research project and population of focus was encouraged and supported by our data collection template. When the Stage 3 and 4 institutional award amounts are communicated by TIPS, Trillium Health Partners Research Senior Leadership team will work with members of our Anti-Racism and Inclusion team to inform and make decisions on the allocation of funds awarded across eligible claims, taking the EDI considerations identified with each claim into consideration. This approach ensures a robust and transparent process and that all potential beneficiaries have been treated equitably.
Trillium Health Partners Contact for CRCEF Program Compliance
At Trillium Health Partners, ultimate responsibility for the CRCEF program rests with the Senior Vice President, Science and Chief Scientist (Robert.firstname.lastname@example.org). Each of the Vice President, Institute for Better Health (email@example.com) and the Director, Research Operations (firstname.lastname@example.org) are accountable to the Senior Vice President on implementation.