Weekly Dispatch: April 8, 2021

April 8, 2021

News

National Volunteer Week is April 18-24: PIA Northeast thanks its generous volunteers

PIA Northeast is the premier trade association for independent insurance agents in the Northeast—all thanks to the time, unbeatable knowledge and never-ending service of its members and volunteer boards. On behalf of the entire staff at PIA, we thank each and every PIA volunteer for their generous contribution to the insurance industry.

Conn./N.J./N.Y.: Help a local charity receive $2,500

Want to make a difference to a local charity in your community? PIA is working with the Insurance Industry Charitable Foundation to let agencies know that the IICF is offering 10 grants—worth $2,500 each—to worthy charities in Connecticut, New Jersey and New York. In order for the charity to receive one of the grants, it must be sponsored by an insurance entity—at no cost to you. Ask the charity you are sponsoring to complete an application. Applications are due Friday, May 28, 2021.

Conn.: Residents and small businesses may be eligible for ACA health insurance

Gov. Ned Lamont announced last week that small businesses in Connecticut—that may not have been able to afford health insurance for their employees—now have the option to provide funding for their employees through a Health Reimbursement Arrangement account. President Joseph R. Biden signed the American Rescue Plan Act on March 11, 2021, which increases subsidies for Affordable Care Act-compliant health plans offered by Access Health CT. The increased subsidies are available for 2021 and 2022. HRAs are employer-funded arrangements from which employees are reimbursed tax-free for qualified medical expenses up to a fixed dollar amount per year. Unused amounts may be rolled over to be used in subsequent years. The employer funds and owns the arrangement. Connecticut residents that currently do not have health insurance can take advantage of a special enrollment period offered through Access Health CT that runs until Thursday, April 15, 2021. Job loss and other events can qualify an individual or family for enrollment throughout the year. 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.J.: Gov. Murphy provides $25 million in small-business aid

Gov. Phil Murphy signed legislation last Thursday that provides $25 million in federal COVID-19 relief for small businesses throughout New Jersey. The legislation—sponsored by Sens. Dawn Marie Addiego, D-8, and Joseph Lagana, D-38; and Assemblymen Gordon Johnson, D-37, John Armato, D-2, and Roy Frieman, D-16—focuses on providing a lifeline to microbusinesses with five or fewer employees. The bill is part of a five-bill, $100 million relief effort to help New Jersey’s economy recover from the year-long pandemic. 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.

N.Y.: Gov. Cuomo announces grants for homeowners

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced last Friday that $15 million in funding is available through the State Septic System Replacement Program to support homeowners. The grants are the second round from a total of $75 million provided to improve water quality and protect public health through the targeted replacement of aging and sub-standard septic systems and removal of cesspools in communities statewide. The program is a collaboration between the Department of Environmental Conservation, the Department of Health, the Environmental Facilities Corp., and participating counties to administer funding to qualifying homeowners. Do your clients live in one of the counties eligible for this funding? An updated list of these counties is available on the EFC’s website.

Vt.: Gov. Scott announces plans to reopen Vermont, revitalize the economy

Gov. Phil Scott announced on Tuesday two plans to reopen Vermont and the revitalize the state’s economy, respectively. The Vermont Forward Plan is an outlined, stepped plan to methodically and safely ease mitigation measures as more Vermonters are vaccinated. The outline provides a roadmap for Vermonters, municipalities, nonprofits and businesses to plan with greater certainty in the coming months. However, the plan is subject to change based on real-time circumstances. The second plan—intended to revitalize Vermont’s economy—will strategically invest $1 billion in one-time federal money that was provided to states to jumpstart the recovery from the pandemic and support long-term economic growth. Vermont’s proposal for this revitalization ensures that the one-time federal money is dedicated to one-time transformations rather than programs that the state would have to continue to support with other sources of funding once this federal money is gone. The revitalization adheres to Scott’s FY 2022 budget proposal, which was presented in January.

Compliance

N.Y.: DFS issues another cyberalert

The New York State Department of Financial Services issued another alert last week about an ongoing cyber crime campaign that is a serious threat to consumers. Data from hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers already has been stolen and financial service companies need to take immediate action to protect consumer data from this ongoing cybercrime. DFS released a cyber fraud alert on Feb. 16, 2021, which identified a systemic and aggressive cyber crime campaign to steal nonpublic information—including driver’s license numbers—from public-facing, instant-quote websites. The hackers are attempting to use the stolen information to apply for pandemic assistance and unemployment benefits fraudulently. The DFS reminds its regulated entities to report theft of consumers’ nonpublic information, pursuant to its cyber security regulation, to the department immediately. Let PIA Northeast help you and your agency. If your agency does business in New York state, you are required to comply with the state’s cyber security regulations. PIA Northeast members have access to the cybersecurity regulation tool kit, which is part of PIA’s Privacy Compliance Central.

Advocacy

N.J.: Become a monthly PAC donor

Did you know that you now have the option to become a monthly donor for New Jersey PIAPAC? When you sign up for recurring donations, your credit card will be charged however much you’d like, monthly—just like a Netflix subscription. The difference is, with this money, you’ll be helping make the voices of New Jersey independent agents louder in Trenton. Join other New Jersey agents today by becoming a recurring NJPIAPAC donor—just go to the NJPIAPAC donation page and select “Subscription” under “Select contribution type.”

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

PIANY-priority legislation (S.6028) was introduced in the state Senate last week, which would allow carriers to waive the photo inspection of private-passenger automobiles prior to providing physical damage coverage. The bill—sponsored by Sen. Neil D. Breslin, D-44—would allow insurance carriers to give policyholders the option to save time and money by eliminating the state’s photo inspection requirement—otherwise known as Regulation 79. PIANY and insurance carriers have called for reform of Regulation 79 for years, testifying that, when they receive the photos, they store them away and don’t use them. PIANY has testified that the requirement of taking and storing hard-copy photographs is outdated and unnecessary, and the regulation should be repealed.

Technical

Major NFIP rating plan changes coming Oct. 1

The Federal Emergency Management Agency is updating its pricing methods for the National Flood Insurance Program through an initiative called Risk Rating 2.0, which goes into effect Friday, Oct. 1, 2021. Per the update, all new business policies must be issued under Risk Rating 2.0. Existing policies renewing between Friday, Oct. 1, 2021, and Thursday, March 31, 2022, may renew under the current legacy rating plan or the new Risk Rating 2.0. But, all policies renewing on or after Friday, April 1, 2022, must be rated under Risk Rating 2.0. This new rating plan will continue to phase out NFIP subsidies, which began with the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012 and continued with the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act of 2014. However, per the update, premiums for individual properties will be tied to their actual flood risk. Under the legacy rating plan, FEMA used a simple method that was developed in the 1970s, which based risk ratings on two factors: whether homes were inside a severe flood zone, and their elevation within those zones. Risk Rating 2.0 will utilize a larger range of variables, both in terms of modeling the flood risk and in assessing the risk to each property. What this means for your clients: High-valued homes in vulnerable coastal areas could have significant increases in premiums. Because the limitations on annual premium increases are set in statute, Risk Rating 2.0 will not be able to increase rates faster than the existing limit for primary residences, which ranges in increases from 5%-18% per year.

N.J.: NJCIRB COVID-19 WC manual amendments extended until the end of the year

The New Jersey Compensation and Inspection Rating Bureau has extended the expiration of the premium reduction pricing elements available in the workers’ compensation manual from Friday, April 30, 2021, until Friday, Dec. 31, 2021. This extension is a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. These provisions—announced in Manual Amendment Bulletin #500—pertain to the use of Code 8810 for home clerical duties; the exclusion of payroll from which no related services have been rendered; an increase of the available Schedule Rating Plan credit to 35%; and a permitted reduction of the Plan Premium Adjustment Program factor by 10 points, respectively.

N.J.: NJCIRB announces new associate executive director

The NJCIRB also announced that the Governing Committee has appointed Krystal A. Ross as the associate executive director and chief actuary, effective April 1, 2021. Ross is an associate of the Casualty Actuarial Society, and has been a member of the American Academy of Actuaries since 2010. Prior to joining the NJCIRB, Ross worked for more than 15 years in the workers’ compensation industry, in which she provided ratemaking, regulatory reporting and product management support for American International Group and Starr Insurance Cos. Ross joined the NJCIRB as chief actuary in January 2018.

N.Y.: ELANY updates its website

The Excess Line Association of New York announced last Wednesday that it has redesigned its website. Much of the content on the website has been updated and reorganized, and the association added features that will enhance the functionality of the site altogether. You can view a tour of the changes to ELANY’s website here.

Educating insurance agents

Tri-state YIP members: Register for free webinar on social-media advertising

Are you interested in learning about the laws and regulations regarding social-media advertising? Register for Swipe Right: Rules and Regulations to Advertising on Social Media, a free webinar on Tuesday, June 29, 2021, from 1-2 p.m. Join PIA Northeast’s Government & Industry Affairs Director Bradford J. Lachut, Esq., to learn about the rules insurance agents must follow when they advertise online. Topics will include rebating and referrals, use of information about an insurance carrier in advertisements, what can and cannot be said on social media, and rules related to specific lines of insurance. To register, email your full name and your YIP member number to yip@pia.org. Your YIP coordinator will be in touch once you have been registered. The webinar has been approved for continuing-education credits in Connecticut, New Jersey and New York.

Register now

Conn.: Register for the CTYIP Golf Open

Do you enjoy golf and networking? Join CTYIP and your fellow insurance colleagues for the CTYIP Golf Open on Tuesday, June 15, 2021, at the Lyman Orchards Golf Club in Middlefield. Don’t miss an unrivaled opportunity to play 18 holes, network and cultivate business contacts—with lunch included. You don’t golf? Don’t worry. Nongolfers still can attend the picnic lunch and benefit from this networking event. Whether you’re an avid player, a novice or a nongolfer—join us. Register or sign up to sponsor today.

N.J.: Sign up or join a team for the NJYIP Fun Run

The NJYIP Fun Run is happening virtually again this year, which means you can run the 5K anywhere—even on a treadmill. As usual, proceeds from the Fun Run will support Special Olympics New Jersey. Complete the race between May 28-June 11, 2021, and share your results online! Register individually or join a team here.

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