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COVID-19 Supplement to Support Research Trainees and Research Personnel

Program Overview

As part of the federal government’s response to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on research activities, $251 million was provided to the Tri-Agencies – Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) for salaries and stipends to help address the financial impact of interruptions to grant-funded activity due to COVID-19.

CIHR, SSHRC and NSERC contacted Principal Investigators (PIs) of eligible grants directly to offer a salary and stipend Supplement between July and August 2020. An offer was made for each eligible grant.


PIs who accepted the Supplement had to confirm the following with NSERC, SSHRC and CIHR respectively for each award.

  1. They continued to pay salaries or stipends to students, trainees and/or research support personnel between April 1st and June 30th, 2020.
  2. Their research activity was interrupted between April 1st and June 30th, 2020 due to the pandemic.

Supplements from CIHR

  • CIHR issued revised Authorizations for Funding (AFFs) with the additional funding included.
  • As is usual practice for CIHR, any unspent funds at the end of the grant (unfunded extension period) will be returned to CIHR.
  • We recommend that salaries or stipends be expensed to this fund as soon as possible in order to utilize the supplement amount in full.

Supplements from NSERC and SSHRC

  • Both NSERC and SSHRC will issue notices of supplement funding to each PI directly.
  • Funds must be spent by March 31st, 2021.
  • There is no carry-forward permitted of unspent Supplement funds after March 31, 2021 and any unspent Supplement funds must be returned to NSERC and SSHRC.

Attestation Form

Trainees and research support personnel must attest that they did not/are not benefiting from compensation under the Canada Emergency Student Benefit (CESB) or the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB). They also cannot be benefitting from other income supports related to COVID-19, including the extensions of Tri-Agency scholarships and fellowships.

Beginning in October, ROADS sent PIs a request to complete an Attestation Form that should be completed by PIs and those trainees and/or research support personnel who were paid with eligible grant funds. We have asked that these forms be uploaded to this MacDrive folder by March 31, 2021, to facilitate reporting.


During the summer, grantees were emailed directly by NSERC/SSHRC and asked to accept or decline the supplement. If you accepted, you will receive targeted emails from ROADS with details and further instruction.


Supplement amounts were calculated by the Agencies on a per-grant basis by obtaining the average annual grant amount, then calculating a percentage of the 3-month value of the grant. The amounts offered were non-negotiable.


Researchers will receive notifications from the Office of Research Finance notifying them of the supplement funds. These funds have been added to the existing research project for which the supplement was issued.


These funds are for salaries and stipends (including benefits) only.


  • Qualifying period (April 1 – June 30, 2020): Tri-Agencies used this time period to establish which grants would be eligible for support due to disruptions caused by COVID-19.
  • Eligible period to use funds (April 1 – March 31, 2021): Grantees have this period of time to use these funds to pay trainees or research support personnel as long as they have not accepted CERB/CESB simultaneously.


Clarify the period of time during which they accepted other federal wage supports. If:

  • They have and continue to accept CERB/CESB, the supplement cannot be used to pay this trainee/ research support personnel.
  • They accepted some form of wage support for a limited period of time and have since stopped, they may still be paid from this supplement for the period in which they did not receive other federal wage supports, up to March 31, 2021.


This is only a concern for McMaster award holders if the student receives an overlap in payment from CERB/ CESB and from the supplement funds (for the same time period). For the period where there is overlap, the student will need to return their CERB/CESB payment.

PIs should let their students know that there are personal tax implications for receiving support from multiple federal COVID-19 support programs and suggest they consult the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) or an accountant to see what makes sense for their personal case. Students accepted CERB for all sorts of reasons and, unfortunately, the current Tri-Agency policy does not speak to these individual cases.

If your student/s received other federal COVID-19 support while being paid by you from the Tri-Agency supplement, please contact your Senior Research Accountant (SRA).


If your department administrator is unable to provide the information required, please contact your SRA for a labour distribution report.


Yes, if possible.  Alternatively, you can attach an email from your personnel confirming their attestation is for payment from multiple grants, and upload the email together with the signed form.

McMaster requests that PIs complete the forms by March 31, 2021 to facilitate reporting.


Yes – these are two different wage support programs. It is feasible that trainees and research support personnel were paid from both government and non-government sources.


Whether or not research personnel are eligible to receive wage support from the supplement depends on whether they personally received other federal COVID-19 support. We cannot speak to the personal tax implications that accepting both CERB while being paid on a research grant might have on a household filing. We recommend that trainees/research personnel reach out to CRA or an accountant directly for advice.


If you’ve had no response, we suggest you use the supplement funds for someone else. If that’s not an option, please immediately notify your SRA. For audit purposes, please keep a record of the times you have reached out to the trainee or research personnel and share that with your SRA.


Please contact the PI to confirm they have received the supplement funds and will transfer a proportional amount to McMaster. ROADS will work with the PI’s home institution on the transfer agreement.


Any unclaimed funds will be returned to the Tri-Agency. The Office of Research Finance will be in touch in due course to assist those grantees.