Weekly Dispatch: April 22, 2021

April 22, 2021

News

Register for PIA Northeast’s Virtual Conference 2021

Trust us, you don’t want to miss it. Registration for PIA Northeast’s Virtual Conference 2021 is now open. The event—PIA Northeast’s premier insurance event of the year—takes place on June 8-9, 2021. This event brings together agents, brokers, vendors, companies and more via an immersive, three-dimensional, virtual platform that makes it easy to forge business connections. You can attend an unbeatable virtual exhibit hall, you’ll have access to continuing-education sessions, you’ll learn about the latest insurance products in the Northeast and you’ll get to hear from several astounding featured speakers—including this year’s keynote speaker, former NBA star Walter Bond. And, this year’s Virtual Conference is five-state—so you’ll have countless opportunities to network with insurance colleagues from all of PIA’s state associations. Register today to attend this one-of-a-kind event. Also, there are myriad opportunities to sponsor, exhibit or advertise at the conference. For more information, you can look at the PIA Northeast Virtual Conference marketing kit.

Conn.: CID-licensed insurers must comply with federal and state anti-discrimination laws

The Connecticut Insurance Department issued a formal notice last week to insurers licensed by the department. According to the notice, insurers’ use of technology and Big Data must be in full compliance with federal and state anti-discrimination laws. The CID’s Advisory Council on Consumer Data recommended this notice after it identified the types of Big Data being collected, how the data is being used, legal and ethical issues with the use of Big Data, and how to better protect consumer information. According to Insurance Commissioner Mais’s office, “The [CID] continues to recognize the need to protect consumers and hold carriers accountable for the quality of all the data used in underwriting and rating.”

Conn.: Unemployment insurance trust fund to be restored

Gov. Ned Lamont and the state Legislature announced yesterday a bipartisan proposal to restore the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund and reduce taxes on the majority of Connecticut businesses. The state’s unemployment insurance fund has been insolvent for 48 of the last 50 years, forcing Connecticut to borrow money from the federal government during economic downtowns. The proposal will restore the trust fund solvency and reduces taxes on at least 73% of businesses by broadening the taxable wage base, reducing tax rates and reforming benefits.

N.H.: Gov. Sununu extends state of emergency 21 days; lifts mask mandate

Gov. Chris Sununu announced last Friday that he has extended the COVID-19 state of emergency for 21 days, until Friday, May 7, 2021. However, the statewide mandate to wear face masks expired on Friday as a result of decreased COVID-19 cases throughout the state, retained hospitalizations and many Granite Staters becoming vaccinated. According to Sununu, while the mandate removes the requirement to wear a face mask when residents are within six feet of someone outside of their household, it still is imperative to wear a mask to continue to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. 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.

N.J.: Legislation signed to give WC benefits to dependents of deceased essential workers

Gov. Phil Murphy announced that he signed S-2476 on Monday, which provides supplemental workers’ compensation benefits for surviving dependents of essential workers who have died as a result of COVID-19. The benefits are retroactive to Jan. 1, 2020. According to Murphy’s office, the money for the benefits provided under this legislation comes from the Second Injury Fund, which was established to provide employers an incentive to hire people with pre-existing disabilities. The SIF limits an employer’s liability for workers’ compensation payments and, through the fund, the state provides benefit payments to workers who already are partially disabled and who subsequently experience a work-related injury that exacerbates a pre-existing injury. An annual surcharge—levied on insurers and certain employers on the first day of every year—funds the SIF, and the Department of Labor and Workforce and Development must notify those surcharge recipients of the surcharge amount on or before Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2021.

N.J.: Gov. Murphy extends public health emergency

Gov. Murphy announced last Thursday that he has extended New Jersey’s public health emergency as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The public health emergency was first declared on March 9, 2020, and has been extended 14 times. 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.: Paid family leave study finds that New York’s policies don’t hurt employers

The National Bureau of Economic Research published a study this month that has found that New York’s paid family leave policy has not hurt employers financially. The bureau selected comparable New York and Pennsylvania firms to record how New York’s 2018 Paid Family Leave policy affected employers. Surprisingly, the bureau found evidence that suggests that paid family leave actually “leads to an improvement in employers’ rating of their ease of handling long employee absence, concentrated in the first policy year and among firms with 50-99 employees.” Additionally, the study found that there has been an increase in leave-taking in the second year of the policy, and that the policy had any negative effect on “employer-rated performance markers” like “productivity, commitment, attendance, teamwork and cooperation.” These findings are unexpected because many employers expect that paid family leave policies will not be beneficial—this study seems to disprove that. Do you have questions about New York’s paid family leave policy? To learn more, access New York state paid family leave FAQs in the PIA QuickSource library.

Vt.: Employers ask state legislators to forgive PPP loans

Vermont Business Magazine published a letter last week from a coalition of Vermont businesses that are requesting state legislators to forgive Paycheck Protection Program loans in the 2021 tax year. The letter—which has been signed by 29 Vermont organizations, representing more than 9,500 employers with more than 200,000 employees—explains that legislators’ forgiveness of these loans is important because “taxing PPP loans would negate the purpose of the program … [and taxing these loans] … would penalize employers.” According to the letter, PPP loans were not taxed in 2020, but state legislators have voted to tax them this year. The letter is an attempt to reverse the Legislature’s decision.

Advocacy

PIA asks U.S. DOL to revise independent contractor definition

PIA announced last Friday that it is part of a coalition that sent a letter to the Wage and Hour Division of the Department of Labor about the definition of independent contractor. The Fair Labor Standards Act proposed to revise the definition of independent contractor on Jan. 7, 2021, and the revision is scheduled to go into effect Friday, May 7, 2021. The revision addresses the difference between employee and independent contractor, and would allow employers not to apply federal minimum wage and overtime rules to independent contractors. However, the U.S. DOL’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking—published on March 12, 2021—suggests withdrawing such revision, holding independent contractors to the same wage and overtime rules as employers. This revision is important because it would continue to allow independent insurance agents who choose to operate as independent contractors to help cultivate economic growth in their communities. In addition to this regulatory proposal, the U.S. House passed H.R.842, which would expand the definition of independent contractor by replacing the existing definition with an ABC test to define an employee. For more information on this legislation, read Employment Status of Independent Agents Threatened on the PIAdvocacy blog. Currently, whether an individual is classified as an employee or an independent contractor is regulated by each state. You can access these regulations for Connecticut, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York and Vermont.

PIA-priority cannabis safe harbor passes U.S. House

PIA-priority legislation, the Secure and Fair Enforcement Banking Act, passed the U.S. House on Monday night. PIA praises this legislation because, if it is signed into law, it would protect insurance agents and carriers from prosecution if they do business with cannabis-related enterprises in states where cannabis is legal.

PIA announces priorities for PIA Virtual Advocacy Day

PIA announced earlier this month its 2021 Issues of Focus, which highlights the priorities that the association will address at PIA’s Virtual Advocacy Day on May 11-13, 2021. The priorities that will be discussed this year include flood insurance, the cannabis safe harbor (as part of the SAFE Banking Act), tax deductions for S corporations, the repeal of the Federal Insurance Office and crop insurance. PIA leaders and independent agents have been invited to participate in telephone or video conferences with their respective states’ federal representatives and senators to ask questions and express their concerns about these issues facing the insurance industry. For more information about the topics covered at PIA’s Virtual Advocacy Day, read your PIA publications and the PIAdvocacy blog.

N.H: Auto policy limits, rebate and residency bills advance in state Legislature

The deadline for the New Hampshire Legislature to act on bills introduced this session was April 9, 2021—and some of the bills were left in limbo. This means they can be amended onto another bill later this year, or they can be introduced again in the 2022 legislative session. But, there also were a number of bills that moved forward. As the Legislature enters the second half of the session, PIANH is monitoring a few bills, including H.B.450, H.B.518, and S.B.36. For more information on these bills, read the post on PIA Northeast News & Media.

N.J.: NJPIAPAC recognizes longtime donors

New Jersey PIAPAC’s donors are the backbone of the PAC because they are dependable for their support, year after year. In 2020, NJPIAPAC had seven member agencies that have been giving to the PAC for the last five to 15 years. Ten-year donors include LG Insurance Agency and McMahon Agency Inc. Aaron Levine, CIC, MBA—the owner of LG Insurance Agency—said, “Without the legislative action by the NJPIAPAC, all agents and consumers of insurance alike would be in big trouble. It’s important for agents to support our customers and insureds by making sure the legislation passed at the state level is beneficial for all parties and not something that will impede our ability to help our clients.” William J. McMahon, CIC—owner of McMahon Agency Inc.—said, “I can rely on the NJPIAPAC to bring the issues impacting agents’ ability to succeed in New Jersey directly to our legislators in Trenton. This allows me to focus on my customers and my agency’s growth.” Join these long-time donors by supporting NJPIAPAC. Your participation is key in strengthening independent agents’ voices in Trenton. Become a donor today.

Technical

N.H.: ISO revises GL bases of premium

In Rule 24, the Insurance Service Office Inc., revised its General Liability Manual. For premium computation purposes, $33,500 should be used as the annual individual payroll for individuals, partners, limited liability company members and executive officers effective Wednesday, Sept. 1, 2021. This is an increase from the current amount of $26,800.

N.J.: Banking and Insurance commissioner approves new WC code for adverse reactions to vaccinations

The commissioner of Banking and Insurance approved amendments to the New Jersey Statistical Plan. To report and track claims caused by adverse reactions to vaccinations or inoculation, Code 38 has been added to Section 3:13-88 of the New Jersey Workers Compensation and Employers Liability Insurance Manual.

N.Y.: Is a COVID-19 illness covered under WC?

The New York Workers’ Compensation Board has ruled that some employers’ workers’ compensation policies cover them if their employees contract COVID-19.

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