Weekly Dispatch: Feb. 4, 2021

February 4, 2021


Resources available: What if an employee isn’t keen on returning to the office?

As businesses continue their return to normalcy, they are struggling with how to bring employees working remotely back into the office. The PIA Industry Resource Center has fielded a number of calls from members who want to know what they can do (legally) if an employee resists returning to the office. To address this issue, PIA Northeast Director of Government & Industry Affairs Bradford J. Lachut, Esq., wrote an article: The virus and the long-distance relationship, which originally was featured in the November 2020 issue of PIA Magazine. To keep you updated on the latest COVID-19-related news, see your state’s PIA Northeast COVID-19 resource page and be sure to read your PIA Northeast publications.

Storm hits Northeast: What you need to know

Several states in the Northeast were pummeled by Winter Storm Orlena on Monday and Tuesday. New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo updated New Yorkers about recovery efforts following the winter storm earlier this week. According to the National Weather Service, the Hudson Valley received the most snowfall with 25 inches of snow recorded. Emergency response crews are working around the clock to clear roadways and prepare for more snowfall this weekend. New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy declared a state of emergency in response to the winter storm. Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont also declared a state of emergency, and extended Connecticut’s severe cold-weather protocol. According to the Concord Monitor, New Hampshire’s efforts against COVID-19 were halted temporarily as a result of the storm. As a PIA Northeast member, you can keep updated on the latest storm news via PIA’s Storm Info Central. This tool kit includes: Information from your state’s finance and insurance department, pertinent QuickSource and Ask PIA resources on topics such as snowplowing, business interruption, loss of use and homeowners policy information; and information on how to order PIA Design & Print consumer material for your agency to use in pre- and post-storm communication with your insureds.

U.S. Capitol riot stresses the importance of insurance

Insurance industry officials say U.S. taxpayers will have to pay for damage caused by rioters at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. They say the U.S. Capitol and the surrounding grounds are not covered by an insurance policy. The people involved in the attack broke windows, doors, art and furniture. The exact cost of the incident remains unknown. The Architect of the Capitol, which manages building preservation and maintenance, also is expected to pay for some of the costs. When it comes to repair and cleanup costs, the federal government has considered insurance too costly to acquire. This stance did not change after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, which caused as much as $1 billion in damage at the Pentagon.

N.J.: UM/UIM coverage bill introduced in Assembly

Legislation that would raise the minimum amounts of property damage liability, uninsured motorist, and underinsured motorist coverage for certain automobile insurance policies was introduced in the Assembly on Jan. 27. Under the bill (S-5281), the minimum amount of coverage for uninsured motorist and underinsured motorist coverage under a standard automobile insurance policy would be raised to $50,000 for an accident causing bodily injury or death to a single person; $100,000 for an accident causing the injury or death of more than one person; and $25,000 for damage to property in an accident that does not involve a hit and run motor vehicle. Additionally, this bill would raise the minimum amount of liability coverage for property damage under a basic automobile insurance policy to $15,000 per accident. The legislation is sponsored by Assemblyman John Catalano, R-10. It has been referred to the Assembly Financial Institutions and Insurance Committee for consideration. More …

N.J.: Adverse carrier and UW restrictions bills pass Senate

Legislation (S-1559), which would allow consumers to bring lawsuits against insurers for an unreasonable delay or unreasonable denial of a claim for payment of benefits under an insurance policy passed the Senate (21-9) on Jan. 28. PIANJ successfully campaigned to have insurance producers excluded from those who are eligible to be sued from earlier versions of this bill. That language remains in S-1559. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Nicholas Scutari, D-22, has been sent to the state Assembly for consideration. Additionally, S-111, which would prohibit the use of a number of underwriting factors in certain automobile insurance determinations, passed the state Senate (22-9) on Jan. 28. Under the legislation, carriers would be prohibited from assigning an insured to a rating tier based on that insured’s credit score, education and occupation. Recently, the bill was amended to add homeownership, employment status and marital status to the prohibited factors. The bill will now go to the state Assembly. More …

N.Y.: State DOL cautions about unemployment claim scam

PIANY is aware of an increase in fraudulent unemployment claims. Many members have alerted the association that they have received notifications from the New York State Department of Labor about unemployment claims for employees who are employed by the agency, including the agency principals. If you have received a notification from the DOL that you believe indicates fraudulent activity, report it to the DOL immediately.

Vt.: Gov. Scott’s annual budget address

Gov. Phil Scott delivered his fifth budget address yesterday to the General Assembly. He presented a balance budget that—with the help of federal stimulus—includes $210 million to strengthen the economy, create more and better-paying jobs, and address big priorities. These priorities include downtown revitalization, infrastructure, broadband and climate change—all without raising taxes or existing fees or cutting essential services. The $6.83 billion budget lays the foundation for a strong economic recovery in all of Vermont’s 14 counties as the state builds back from the pandemic. According to Scott’s office, “If we can work together and put the politics and partisan agendas aside, we can pass a budget that [truly will] transform the future and set us on a path that supports all Vermonters, in every corner of [the] state.”


Conn. and N.Y.: Sexual harassment prevention training required

New York and Connecticut state laws require most employees in each state to complete sexual harassment prevention training. New York employees are required to complete this course annually, and it is available from PIA in the form of an online webinar on Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2021, and Thursday, March 4, 2021. Connecticut employees must take a mandatory training course by Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2021, in order to comply with the law. Initially, the deadline for this training for Connecticut employees was Oct. 1, 2020, but the deadline was extended pursuant to Executive Order 7DDD, as amended by Executive Order 9L, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. You and your employees must comply with this law if you do any business in Connecticut. PIA provides this training in the form of an online webinar. Upcoming dates for this webinar include the following: Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2021, and Thursday, April 1, 2021.

N.J.: DOBI stop issuing temporary licenses

The Department of Banking and Insurance issued Bulletin No. 21-02 late last month to announce that the department would no long accept temporary insurance producer applications after Jan. 31, 2021. This past May, the DOBI began to issue temporary resident producer licenses to those applicants who were unable to take producer license exams due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Since then, the DOBI has reopened testing centers and the department has allowed the use of remote testing. As such, the DOBI will cease accepting temporary insurance producer applications. Temporary licenses that have been issued will continue in force until the applicant earns a regular license by passing the examination or the temporary license expires. Temporary licenses expire either 180 days from the date of the issuance of the temporary license or 30 days after the end of the state of emergency and public health emergency, whichever occurs first.

N.Y.: DFS issues cyber insurance risk framework

Superintendent Linda A. Lacewell announced today that the New York State Department of Financial Services issued a new cyber insurance risk framework. The framework outlines industry best practices for New York-regulated property/casualty insurers that write cyber insurance to manage their cyber insurance risk effectively. The framework is the first guidance by a U.S. regulator on cyber insurance. According to Lacewell’s office, “Cybersecurity is the biggest risk for government and industry, bar none. Cyber insurance is critical to managing and reducing the extraordinary risk we face from cyber intrusions.” Do you need cyber security insurance? Get a quote from PIA today. For more information about cybersecurity, PIANY has a cybersecurity regulation tool kit, which will help you comply with state cyber security regulations and help make your security program relevant, actionable and defensible.


PIA announces legislative priorities for 2021

PIA National outlined its legislative agenda for 2021, which includes: COVID-19 small-business relief, reauthorization of the National Flood Insurance Program, protection of agent commissions for the sale of crop insurance, creation of a safe harbor for agents who sell insurance to cannabis-related businesses, defense of the state insurance regulatory system, and repeal of the pass-through tax deduction’s sunset provision.

N.H.: State legislative session underway

The New Hampshire Legislature began last month with a busy session for this year. Leadership has changed for the state, and the Biennium Budget Request must be approved. Insurance-related legislation proposed includes S.B.36, which would repeal the requirement that auto policyholders sign a residency form. Currently, state law requires residents seeking auto coverage to sign a document confirming that they live in New Hampshire. Additionally, H.B.310 will be proposed again. This legislation would require insurers to cover vehicle repairs up to the manufacturers’ specifications. This bill was introduced in the previous session. Track these and other bills with the PIAdvocacy bill tracker.

N.J.: PIANJ and McKeon discuss ‘step-down’ provisions

Members of PIANJ met with Assemblyman John McKeon, D-27, chairman of the Assembly Financial Institutions and Insurance Committee, yesterday to discuss the issue of step-down provisions in personal auto policies—one of PIANJ’s top legislative priorities. The conversation took place over video conferencing. In an auto policy, a step-down provision acts to reduce the amount of insurance coverage available to policyholders compared to the original agreement. Essentially, policyholders will think they have more coverage than they actually do. Typically, these provisions are triggered when insureds use their personal vehicle to make deliveries of any kind. When that occurs, the policyholders may lose the insurance coverage they bargained for, and instead only receive what is required under New Jersey’s financial responsibility law. Currently, that minimum is $15,000 per person, with a total maximum of $30,000 per incident. PIANJ will continue to work with the McKeon as well as elected officials throughout the state to rectify this vital issue.

N.J.: A look at New Jersey state elections in 2021

The dust barely has settled from the 2020 federal elections, but our focus turns to the New Jersey 2021 state elections. On Nov. 2, voters will head to the polls (or vote by mail) to select New Jersey’s next governor, all 80 members of the New Jersey Assembly and 40 state senators. Here is how the races are shaping up so far. Nine months is a lifetime in politics. One thing that is for certain, there will be no shortage of intrigue between now and Election Day. In the meantime, you can help your association make a difference. Don’t forget to make a donation to your NJPIAPAC online or by mailing in a donation form. Your state PAC uses your donations to contribute to legislative candidates who are supportive of our industry generally, and issues important to independent agents in particular.

N.Y.: Legislature takes action on PIANY priorities

Recently, three bills were introduced in the state Legislature and another was referred out of committee—all of them support PIANY’s 2021 legislative priorities directly. S.498, which would eliminate the excess-line insurance diligent-effort requirement for commercial-risk placements made by retail producers through unaffiliated wholesale brokers, was reported out of the Senate Commerce Committee on Feb. 1, 2021. Additionally, A.4199 was introduced in the Assembly on Feb. 1, 2021. This bill would allow carriers to waive the photo inspection of private-passenger automobiles prior to providing physical damage coverage, and would allow carriers to give policyholders the option to save time and money by eliminating the state’s photo inspection requirement. S.2627 was introduced in the state Senate on Jan. 22, 2021. This bill would repeal the requirement for insureds to file an anti-arson application in order to obtain coverage for fire or explosion damage. And S.3578 was introduced in the state Senate on Jan. 30, 2021. This bill would require carriers and producers that utilize insureds’ driving records as an underwriting or rating factor for personal auto policies, to run motor-vehicle reports before binding the policy. Currently, the law allows carriers to run reports after the policy is bound, which can change the premium of the policy without the client knowing. Read more about these bills here. Track these and other bills with the PIAdvocacy bill tracker.


N.H.: WC loss-cost multipliers

In order to determine workers’ compensation premiums, individual companies have loss-cost multipliers—approved by the New Hampshire Insurance Department—which consider operating expenses and profit factors. The latest New Hampshire WC loss-cost multipliers now are available. To see the list, access New Hampshire workers’ compensation loss-cost multipliers in the PIA QuickSource library.

Vt.: NCCI issues 2020 residual market report

The National Council on Compensation Insurance has released its Vermont 2020 Residual Market State Activity Report. The report includes charts illustrating the total number of quarterly policy counts and/or premium volume over the past four years; tables listing the top 10 classification codes by policy count and premium volume, which show top-ranking class codes, and the percent of policies and premiums. Additionally, it includes charts with loss ratio, ultimate net written premiums, incurred losses, and estimated net operating gain/loss information—these show premiums, gains and losses during a period.

Educating insurance agents

PIA Northeast experts discuss cancellation and nonrenewal requirements

PIA Government & Industry Affairs Director Bradford J. Lachut, Esq., and Government Affairs Counsel Clare Irvine, Esq., discuss the general cancellation and nonrenewal requirements of the states in the PIA Northeast footprint in the latest video in The Break series. State-specific links that will help you learn more about policyholders’ rights and protections are included in the video’s description box. All of PIA Northeast’s videos can be viewed on PIA Northeast’s YouTube channel.


Conn.: CTYIP holds virtual Holiday Social

CTYIP invited members—and nonmembers—to participate in a virtual Holiday Social & Happy Hour last Thursday via Zoom. Attendees had an opportunity to network with fellow insurance colleagues and enjoyed beverages of their choice. For future CTYIP events, watch your PIA Northeast publications, the CTYIP Facebook page and the CTYIP events calendar.

N.J.: PIANJ Women’s Leadership Alliance promotes self-care with yoga

Last week, more than 30 participants took part in the PIANJ Women’s Leadership Alliance for a Self-Care Yoga Virtual Class via Zoom. The Women’s Leadership Alliance Committee sends a special thank you to Kristin Harris, founder and owner of Seeds of Love Yoga, for instructing this event. If you missed the event, but would like to do yoga on your own time, you can watch a recording of the session and follow along. The event raised $1,200 for the yoga studio; you still can make a donation to support scholarships, community events, education and training, and provide yoga equipment for those who cannot afford it, and more.


Give PIA your input: 2021 Market Trends Survey

You deal with changing market cycles on an ongoing basis—and in 2020 you likely saw some large and unexpected changes. We want to understand how 2020 was for you and your agency. Take a moment to fill out PIA Northeast’s Market Trends Survey, which includes seven questions regarding pricing, underwriting rules, and market availability. Share the link with others in your agency, so they can fill out the survey, too. Your answers will give PIA valuable input on how current market trends are affecting you and your clients, as well as allow us to continue tracking the trends of the marketplace.

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