Weekly Dispatch: Feb. 11, 2021

February 11, 2021

News

PPP returns

The Paycheck Protection Program has returned after the 116th Congress passed another COVID-19 relief package on Dec. 21, 2020. This time, the PPP has a $284 billion second-draw loan opportunity for small businesses affected by the pandemic and related economic turndown. Before businesses take the second-draw loan, they should consider whether they took out the first-draw loan, whether they paid it back already or did not take the entire loan to which they were entitled, and whether they need the additional funding. Also, some types of businesses that were not eligible for a PPP loan in 2020 may be eligible this year. Organizations that may qualify include nonprofits, veterans’ organizations, agricultural cooperatives, sole proprietors, people who are self-employed and independent contractors. Second-draw businesses cannot have more than 300 employees and must have at least a 25% reduction in revenues in at least one quarter of 2020 when compared to previous quarters. Here is more information about the second-draw PPP loans and whether your business is eligible.

Conn.: Lamont announces new business tools

Gov. Ned Lamont announced Feb. 8, that Connecticut’s online business portal, Business.CT.gov, is adding features that will make it easier for entrepreneurs to find information and services that aid in the process of starting and managing their businesses in the state. Connecticut has used feedback from entrepreneurs to customize the portal. New features include a resource center, which centralizes 170 different programs that provide financial, technical and equity-based support for business owners; includes a business dashboard, which helps business owners find crucial business information, links companies to state compliance needs and provides timely alerts that may impact businesses; and includes COVID-19 content, which updates business owners with vaccination numbers, positive cases, business and employer resources and official state guidance.

N.J.: Murphy expands small-business grant program, federal PPP returns

Recently, Gov. Phil Murphy announced an additional $5 million has been allocated to the Small Business Lease-Emergency Assistance Grant Program, which allows businesses in 64 legislatively designated municipalities to apply for grants of up to $10,000 for lease costs. The program, which already has allocated $10 million to roughly 1,000 businesses, assists small-business owners affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

N.Y.: Introduced bill would limit required flood insurance

Legislation was introduced in the state Senate this month that would limit the amount of flood insurance mortgage lenders could require from mortgagees. The bill, S.4696, would prohibit mortgage lenders from requiring the borrower to obtain flood insurance in excess of the outstanding mortgage, or obtaining flood insurance that includes coverage for the property’s contents. If the mortgage lender requires the borrower to obtain flood insurance, a disclosure would be required to clarify that the coverage would protect only the creditor/lender’s interest in the property, and the borrower still would need additional coverage to protect his or her interests. Federal requirements regarding flood insurance for homeowners with mortgages in designated flood zones would not be impacted or altered by this legislation. Track these and other bills with the PIAdvocacy bill tracker.

N.Y.: COVID-19 BI bill introduced in state Senate

Sen. Andrew Gounardes, D-22, introduced S.4711 on Feb. 9, 2021, which would allow businesses to recover COVID-19-related business-interruption losses from their insurance carriers, even if the policy did not include coverage for infectious disease. However, businesses looking to recover such losses would need to have had a BI policy in place that went into effect by March 7, 2020. Additionally, Assemblyman Robert Carroll, D-44, introduced a same-as bill (A.1937) in the state Assembly last month. Both the Senate and Assembly bills are reintroductions from the state’s 2020 legislative session.

Vt.: Gov. Scott addresses Vermont residents on economic recovery, resurgence

This month, Gov. Phil Scott announced his priorities for Vermont in 2021. While Scott and his team remain focused on the state’s response to COVID-19, Scott addressed where he wants to see more change. These changes include economic growth, job creation, downtown revitalization, infrastructure, broadband and climate change. Additionally, the governor plans not to raise taxes or fees, or cut essential services in order to implement these changes. According to Scott’s office, “The federal aid we’ve received will help us achieve these goals, but we must remember it’s one-time money, which means we won’t have it next year. That’s why we must invest in areas that lower costs in the future and drive economic growth.”

Vt.: Unemployment claimants’ identities will be protected

Gov. Scott announced Feb. 10, that the state will provide a suite of identity protection services to all unemployment insurance claimants who will receive a 2020 1099-G from the Vermont Department of Labor. This action is in response to the inadvertent disclosure that occurred on Jan. 29, 2021, when VDOL mailed incorrect 1099-G forms to some unemployment claimants. According to Scott’s office, the governor hopes the services “provide some reassurance that [Vermonters’ identities] can be protected and monitored, and in worst-case scenarios, expenses will be covered to restore incurred losses.”

Vt.: WC compensable COVID-19 presumption extended

Gov. Scott this month signed S.9, which extends the presumption that COVID-19 is compensable for frontline workers in Vermont beyond Jan. 15, 2021. It now will remain in effect until 30 days after the state lifts its emergency declaration.

Compliance

N.J.: Mandatory producer bill introduced in state Senate

Legislation that would require insureds to consult with an insurance producer prior to sale of an automobile insurance policy was introduced in the New Jersey Senate on Feb. 4. S-3408, sponsored by Sen. Nicholas Scutari, D-22, also would permit an insurer to sell an insurance policy—through an internet website—to an individual who has not consulted with an insurance producer if the insurer provides the individual with a cost-benefit analysis prior to selling the policy. The bill does not specify what information must be in the cost-benefit analysis, or what constitutes a consultation. Instead, the commissioner of the Department of Banking and Insurance would be authorized to determine the answers to those questions. The legislation has been referred to the Senate Commerce Committee for consideration.

N.Y.: DFS consumer alert: New laws protect consumers

The New York State Department of Financial Services and the New York State Division of Consumer Protection issued an alert on Feb. 9, which informed New Yorkers about two new laws regarding consumer protection. The first law provides new protections when purchasing recurring services. According to the law, any organization selling automatic renewal programs or continuous services to New Yorkers must provide consumers an easy-to-use cancellation mechanism before they pay for the service. Consumers who purchase these services online must be allowed to terminate the agreement online at any time. The second law requires New York-regulated financial institutions to notify consumers of any pending charges 30 days before charging any fee based on account inactivity. The notification must be written, but can be sent electronically. According to DFS Superintendent Linda A. Lacewell’s office, “This new protection will ensure that New Yorkers, so many of whom are navigating economic uncertainties, aren’t caught off guard and penalized without notice for mere inactivity, and instead have the opportunity to avoid these unnecessary costs.”

Advocacy

Conn.: State Legislature considers legalized sports betting, iGaming and more

As a result of the pandemic, Connecticut’s 2021 legislative session is operating differently this session. All meetings are limited to video conferencing, phone calls and text messages. Despite these differences, the General Assembly has pushed ahead with more than 2,000 introduced bills. Proposed legislation includes legalized sports betting and iGaming, health care reform and the implementation of a mansion tax. The deadline to introduce additional bills is Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2021, or Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2021, depending on the committee. Additionally, Gov. Lamont is slated to introduce his budget package today, which likely will include a proposal to legalize recreational marijuana and address the state’s transportation infrastructure issues. More …

N.Y.: PIANY-priority NYSIF bill introduced in state Senate

Sen. Neil D. Breslin, D-44, introduced S.4694 in the state Senate on Feb. 9, 2021, which would modify Workers’ Compensation Law Section 94 to remove the requirement that employers provide 30-days’ notice before withdrawing from the New York State Insurance Fund. This bipartisan legislation would put NYSIF on the same plane as other insurers who provide workers’ compensation insurance by removing the 30-day notice requirement. This bill supports one of PIANY’s 2021 legislative priorities, and the association thanks Sen. Breslin for his support on this vital issue. More … Track these and other bills with the PIAdvocacy bill tracker.

 N.Y.: PIANY board supports Agents Advocacy Coalition

The PIANY board supports the Agents Advocacy Coalition unanimously—it believes in the importance of a political action committee, and the value the Agents Advocacy Coalition brings to professional, independent insurance agents in New York state. Dave L. Sidle II, CIC, CPIA—who owns his own agency—is a dedicated Agents Advocacy Coalition donor. According to Dave, “Giving individually to a lawmaker may not necessarily give you a voice, but as part of a coalition of like-minded agents, Agents Advocacy Coalition can make a bigger impact advocating on your behalf.  Agents Advocacy Coalition doesn’t go into this blind, their agenda is developed by input from the membership of PIA.  They have the time, the contacts, and the relationships to really work on behalf of agents from across the state.”  Join the coalition of agents and donate to Agents Advocacy Coalition today.

Technical

Net income drops 27.5%, first nine months of 2020

The private U.S. property/casualty insurance industry dealt with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic as well as an historic catastrophe season in the first nine months of 2020, according to a report from Verisk and the American Property Casualty Insurance Association. The industry’s net income after taxes dropped 27.5% to $35.1 billion in the first nine months of 2020 and net underwriting gains declined to $0.3 billion, from $5.4 billion a year earlier. The deterioration in underwriting results was due, in part, to a major increase in the losses and loss adjustment expenses from catastrophes, which more than doubled to $47.1 billion for nine-months 2020 from $21.5 billion in the same nine-month period a year earlier.

Conn.: 2020 consumer recoveries and insurer fines

The Connecticut Insurance Department announced last month that its Consumer Affairs Department fielded 5,668 complaints and inquiries in 2020, and helped policyholders recoup more than $4 million. Also, the Department’s Market Conduct division levied approximately $1.78 million in fines last year against carriers and returned that money to the state’s General Fund. The fines resulted from a variety of violations and settlements ranging from untimely claim payments to improper licensing.

N.Y.: ELANY advises on Part C affidavits

The Excess Line Association of New York encourages producing brokers to utilize ELANY’s electronic Part C affidavit software to create Part C affidavits. Often, handwritten Part C forms are sloppy, illegible or contain errors that require additional work from wholesale brokers. Using the electronic form will eliminate most of ELANY’s need to follow-up with contacts.

N.Y.: NYSIF policyholders can update online

New York State Insurance Fund policyholders now are able to update and confirm their policy contact information (e.g., mailing address and telephone number) by logging in to their online account on NYSIF’s website. This will simplify the process for customers who want to self-serve when updating their information. Policyholders also will be able to confirm that the information on file is correct, even if no changes are needed. However—as always—representatives can update contact information for policies they represent when speaking with an underwriter or customer service representative.

Vt.: Vermont licenses state based systems

The National Association of Insurance Commissioners announced on Jan. 29, that the Department of Financial Regulation has licensed State Based Systems. The electronic system enables state insurance departments to process license applications, renewals, inquiries, complaints, enforcement actions more efficiently and effectively. And, those departments can accomplish these processes with minimum effort while remaining compliant with national uniformity initiatives. Vermont is the 33rd NAIC member to implement this system.

Vt.: NCCI 2021 WC loss cost decrease of 5.5% approved

The DFR approved the original workers’ compensation voluntary loss-cost filing made by the National Council on Compensation Insurance, consisting of an overall 5.5% decrease. Additionally, a decrease of 4.6% of the overall assigned risk rates was approved as filed. These loss costs and rates will take effect Thursday, April 1, 2021. More …

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. If you have state-specific questions about cancellations and nonrenewals, contact PIA’s Industry Resource Center today. All of PIA Northeast’s videos can be viewed on PIA Northeast’s YouTube channel.

Register now

N.J.: Achieve success with outstanding service

Do you want to learn more about professionalism and customer service? NJYIP will host a webinar Achieving Success with Professionalism & Outstanding Customer Service, Tuesday, March 2, starting at 1 p.m., via Go To Webinar. During the webinar, Owner and Founder Kim Martell of KM Associates, Insurance Management & Training Consultants will examine agency management and customer-service issues. You’ll learn about setting goals that focus on revenue, retention, servicing areas and ways to improve on existing methods. Additionally, Martell will explore errors-and-omissions exposures, and solutions to prevent, to reduce and to eliminate E&O exposures through agency management and customer-service techniques. Sign up today. This webinar has been submitted for New Jersey continuing-education credit. Special: Anyone who signs up for a new NJYIP membership can attend this class for free.

Celebrating 40 Years with Berkshire Hathaway GUARD Insurance Companies.
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