Weekly Dispatch: March 11, 2021

March 11, 2021

News

Biden stimulus passes U.S. Congress

The U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives approved President Joseph R. Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus bill on Saturday and yesterday, respectively. If it is signed, the bill will give many Americans another stimulus payment, extend federal unemployment benefits and provide large amounts of funds to state and local governments. The legislation includes further funding for the Paycheck Protection Program and changes intended to expand eligibility for borrowers. The White House previously had announced changes to the PPP to address gaps that limited assistance to sole-proprietors, independent contractors, and businesses owned by immigrants. Additional funding also will go toward temporary health insurance subsidies and assisting schools to reopen safely. An increase to the national minimum wage was rejected by the U.S. Senate. New York, Connecticut and New Jersey already have enacted annual increases to bring the minimum wage to $15 an hour in those states. The bill now will go to the White House, in order for President Biden to sign it.

Conn.: PIACT names officers for 2021-22

PIACT elected officers for 2021-22 last Thursday during the association’s Annual Business Meeting, which took place via video conferencing. Shannon Rabbett, CIC, of Windsor, was elected president; Bud O’Neil, CPIA, of Bristol, was elected president-elect; Nathan Shippee of Bolton was elected vice president; J. Kyle Dougherty, CIC, of Orange, also was elected vice president; Nicholas Ruickoldt, CPIA, of West Haven, was elected treasurer; and Kevin McKiernan, CIC, CPIA, of Wilton, was elected secretary. Gerard Prast, CPIA, of Wallingford, will serve as the immediate past president.

Conn.: PIACT elects five to board of directors

PIACT re-elected five individuals last Thursday to serve on the PIACT board of directors at its Annual Business Meeting, which took place via video conferencing. Those re-elected to serve a three-year term ending in 2024 include: J. Kyle Dougherty, CIC, of Orange; Nick Khamarji Jr., of Easton; Bud O’Neil, CPIA, of Bristol; Nick Ruickoldt, CPIA, of West Haven; and Nathan Shippee of Bolton.

Conn.: CTYIP names officers and directors for 2021-22

CTYIP officers and directors for the 2021-22 administrative year were elected at the CTYIP Annual Business Meeting last week. Anthony DeSalva of Georgetown elected president; Ryan Kelly of Shelton was elected president-elect; Justin Sloan of Meriden was elected vice president; Robyn Ricciardone of Meriden was elected treasurer; and James Kannengeiser of Stratford was elected secretary. Kathleen Bailey, CPIA, ACSR, CLCS, of Southport will serve as immediate past president. Directors that were re-elected to the CTYIP board with terms ending in 2022 include: Christine DeFelice of New York, N.Y.; Cathy Finlayson of East Haven; James Kannengeiser of Stratford; Ryan Kelly of Shelton; Frank Pingelski of Wilton; and Ashlee Shilosky of Wethersfield. New directors elected to the CTYIP board with terms ending in 2023 include Kathleen Bailey, CPIA, ACSR, CLCS, of Southport; Scott Burns of Hartford; Jeremy Card of Sandy Hook; Anthony DeSalva of Georgetown; Ryan Keating of Hartford; Jacklyn Meeker of Southport; Robyn Ricciardone of Meriden; and Justin Sloan of Meriden.

Conn.: Lamont revises COVID-19 restrictions

Gov. Ned Lamont announced last week that he is planning to revise some COVID-19 requirements that were implemented in the state at the beginning of the pandemic. Revisions include: All capacity limits will be lifted for offices on Friday, March 19, 2021. Face coverings, social distancing, and other cleaning and disinfectant protocols will continue to be required. To keep you updated on the latest COVID-19-related news, see the PIACT COVID-19 resource page and be sure to read your PIA Northeast publications.

N.H.: State of Emergency extended again

Gov. Chris Sununu announced on March 5, 2021, that he extended the State of Emergency another 21 days, until Friday, March 26, 2021. This is the 17th extension of the State of Emergency that was declared in Executive Order 2020-04. To keep you updated on the latest COVID-19-related news, see the PIANH COVID-19 resource page and be sure to read your PIA Northeast publications. Recent updates include: Sununu announces launch of New Hampshire Emergency Rental Assistance Program.

N.J.: Order extends utility shutoff moratorium through June

Gov. Phil Murphy signed Executive Order No. 229, to extend a moratorium to prevent New Jersey residents from having their utilities disconnected through at least Wednesday, June 30, 2021. The moratorium was previously set to expire on March 15, 2021, pursuant to Executive Order No. 190 (2020). The moratorium applies to all residential gas, electric and water utilities, both public and private. Further, the utilities will not be permitted to charge late fees nor fees to reconnect services that have been disconnected. To keep you updated on the latest COVID-19-related news, see the PIANJ COVID-19 resource page and be sure to read your PIA Northeast publications. Recent updates include: the N.J. Department of Health issued the latest edition of its Vax Matters newsletter.

N.Y.: Staged-accident bill passes state Senate

The state Senate passed S.502 on Monday, which would allow insurers to rescind or retroactively cancel auto policies within 30 days of the policy’s establishment, if the insured staged an accident in order to defraud the insurer. If the bill—sponsored by Senate Insurance Committee Chair Sen. Neil D. Breslin, D-44—is signed, New York would fall in line with 42 other no-fault states that allow insurers to retroactively cancel auto policies. Staged accidents are becoming more prevalent in New York, and begin with actors obtaining auto policies with the intent to submit a fraudulent claim. Many times, the actors get the policy by submitting a bad payment for the premium. You can track this and other bills with the PIAdvocacy bill tracker.

N.Y.: DFS issues cyber alert concerning Microsoft

The New York State Department of Financial Services issued a cyber security alert on Tuesday to all of its regulated entities concerning Microsoft Exchange email servers. According to the alert, Microsoft became aware of vulnerabilities in its Microsoft Exchange email servers from 2013 or later. Thousands of organizations have been affected—the vulnerabilities gave hackers access to data and gave them the ability to perform malicious actions against the affected organizations. Microsoft has provided patches for these vulnerabilities, but the patches may not completely remove the issue. The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency recommends that organizations affected by the vulnerabilities should patch them immediately and preserve forensics of the cyber-event. And, in case the patches aren’t enough to eliminate the issue completely, CISA recommends organizations follow CISA Emergency Directive 21-02, which was issued on March 3. Has your agency been affected by this cyber security event? One of the requirements of New York’s cyber security regulation is to report cyber events to the DFS. For more information about cybersecurity, PIANY has a cyber security regulation tool kit, which will help you comply with state cyber security regulations and help make your security program relevant, actionable and defensible.

N.Y.: Gov. Cuomo signs law to protect small businesses

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo signed the COVID-19 Emergency Protect Our Small Businesses Act of 2021 on Tuesday, which establishes eviction and foreclosure protections for small businesses. Initially, the legislation will apply to businesses with 50 employees or fewer, and businesses with 10 or fewer units, that can demonstrate financial hardship as a result of the pandemic. The new protections of the legislation build off of Cuomo’s moratorium on commercial eviction and foreclosure. To keep you updated on the latest COVID-19-related news, see the PIANY COVID-19 resource page and be sure to read your PIA Northeast publications. Recent updates include: Cuomo announces that domestic travelers coming into New York no longer will be required to quarantine starting Thursday, April 1, 2021.

Vt.: DFR announces 2021 top investor threats

The Securities Division of the Vermont Department of Financial Regulation reminded investors today to be on the lookout for investment schemes pitched through the internet and social media, especially ones involving precious metals, cryptocurrencies, promissory notes and foreign-exchange markets. According to the North American Securities Administrators Association, schemes related to these products have been identified as the top threat to investors in 2021.

Advocacy

PIA supports bill to make small-business tax deduction permanent

PIA applauds Reps. Jason Smith, R-Mo., and Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, and U.S. Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., for introducing the “Main Street Tax Certainty Act of 2021,” which would make permanent the 20% tax deduction currently available to some pass-through entities. PIA successfully advocated for the passage of the tax bill signed into law at the end of 2017 because it provided subchapter S corporations, also known as pass-through corporations, with more favorable tax treatment. But, unlike the permanent tax relief provided by the law to entities organized as C corporations, the 2017 pass-through deduction was designed to be temporary. As a result, the benefit for eligible PIA members will end in 2025.

N.J.: A brief history of ‘step-down’ provisions, PIANJ’s efforts

A step-down provision appears in many automobile policies. It reduces the amount of coverage to which a policyholder would be entitled. Typically, these provisions are triggered when an insured uses his or her personal vehicle for a “commercial purpose.” If a claim arises out of this sort of use, the step-down provision would reduce the applicable limits a policyholder could recover to the limits of the financial responsibility law of New Jersey. In 2005, the New Jersey Supreme Court held in Pinto v. New Jersey Manufacturers Insurance Co., 183 N.J. 205 (2005), that step-down provisions in business automobile policies were enforceable. The Pinto decision was troublesome for insurance producers because the court also imposed upon insurance agents and brokers a duty to inform employers of the presence of step-down provisions and their implications. PIANJ lobbied for passage of legislation that would overturn the Pinto decision. In 2007, PIANJ was successful in getting step-down provisions banned in commercial auto policies. Recently, step-down provisions have re-emerged as a threat to New Jersey consumers and insurance producers. “Step-down” provisions have begun to appear in personal automobile policies. The problematic nature of step-down provisions has been exacerbated by the emergence of the “gig economy” as well as the COVID-19 pandemic—both of which have blurred of the line between personal and commercial use of a vehicle. That is why PIANJ has made the elimination of step-down provision in personal auto policies the association’s top legislative priority for 2021. More …

N.Y.: PIANY’s efforts against bait and switch

A growing trend in the personal auto insurance market is bait and switch. When insurance carriers practice bait and switch, it means they are running motor-vehicle reports after binding auto policies, and changing the premium rate of the policy. Often, the policyholder’s premium increases substantially after it is bound, and in many cases, the policyholder doesn’t know that the premium could change after the policy is bound. PIANY is aware of how damaging this practice can be to producers, and actively is advocating for the state Senate and state Assembly to pass S.3578 and A.1809, respectively. These bills would prohibit insurance carriers from re-rating policies when they run an individual’s MVR after the policy is bound, and, if carriers use MVRs to determine policy rates, they would be required to run the MVR before the policy is bound. More … Bait and switch is one of PIANY’s 2021 legislative priorities. You can track these and other bills with the PIAdvocacy bill tracker.

N.Y.: Why people give to Agents Advocacy Coalition

The Agents Advocacy Coalition needs more donors so independent agents have a louder voice in Albany. But do you know why people give to Agents Advocacy Coalition? We asked our donors. One donor said, “PAC allows PIANY to recognize legislators that entertain and support our legislative initiatives.” Others said they donate because, “Agents Advocacy Coalition helps PIA have a legislative impact and [give] input,” and “to help the agent community have a voice.” It’s not about the size of donations; it’s about you. We want you to join us. Please donate today, and together, we can affect change.

Technical

N.Y.: NYSIF Spring WC Advisor

The New York State Insurance Fund issued its newsletter, Workers’ Comp Advisor Spring 2021. In the newsletter, you can read articles about online document access, personal-protective-equipment credits, risk control, online policy changes and Paid Family Leave premiums.

Events

N.J.: NJYIP virtual event on achieving success

Over 20 insurance professionals attended the virtual NJYIP Education webinar, Achieving Success with Professionalism & Outstanding Customer Service, last week. During the webinar, KM Associates, Insurance Management & Training Consultants Owner and Founder Kim Martell examined agency management and customer-service issues. Attendees learned about setting goals that focus on revenue, retention, servicing areas and ways to improve on existing methods. Additionally, Martell explored errors-and-omissions exposures, and solutions to prevent, to reduce and to eliminate E&O exposures through agency management and customer-service techniques. Mark your calendars for the next NJYIP virtual event on Tuesday, June 29, 2021, from 1-2 p.m.—Swipe Right, a social-media webinar with PIANJ Director of Government & Industry Affairs Bradford J. Lachut, Esq. This new NJYIP member benefit, held twice a year, will be free for NJYIP members. Do you—or do you know someone who—wants to become a member of NJYIP?

Register now

Conn.: This week: Register for the Q&A with Insurance Commissioner Mais

Do you want updates on the state of the Connecticut insurance industry? PIACT and CTYIP members are invited to a free virtual Q&A with Connecticut Insurance Commissioner Andrew N. Mais on Thursday, March 11, 2021, at 11:30 a.m. Attendees will get to ask the commissioner questions, and will learn about the current state of the industry. Register to attend the virtual Q&A here.

Celebrating 40 Years with Berkshire Hathaway GUARD Insurance Companies.
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