Weekly Dispatch: Jan. 13, 2022

January 13, 2022

News

Bronx tragedy reveals important insurance implications

A fire in a Bronx apartment building—which claimed the lives of 17 people, including eight children—has highlighted important implications about the accessibility and affordability of renters insurance. Absent and malfunctioning safety measures in the building—and many residential buildings in Bronx neighborhoods—create myriad hazards to residents’ safety and health. And, for most residents in the East Tremont neighborhood where the apartment building is located, income is low while basic, necessary expenses like rent, food and insurance are high, which can leave them exposed to loss. These implications beg the question— even though the insurance industry isn’t responsible for relieving the financial burdens that low-income families face, what can it do to help?

Winter storms impact Northeast

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy announced last week that he signed an Executive Order No. 279, which declared a state of emergency in preparation for a winter storm that impacted the state last Thursday and Friday. Additionally—in response to the same storm—New York Gov. Kathy Hochul advised New Yorkers last week to avoid unnecessary travel. As a result of the storm, parts of New Jersey and New York accumulated 3.2-4.5 inches, and 5.8-12 inches of snow, respectively. On Sunday, Hochul cautioned New Yorkers again as the state prepared for heavy snow, high winds and ice. Eastern New York accumulated less than an inch of ice, and parts of the state near Lake Ontario accumulated up to 30 inches of lake-effect snow. As you know, a significant risk of winter storms is flooding and it takes 30 days for a flood policy to go into effect—so the time to start talking to your clients about flood insurance is now. To help you start the conversation, PIA offers resources through its Storm Info Central and PIA Design & Print. Storm Info Central provides members with state-specific updates and resources on topics such as storm damage, frozen pipes and fire safety. PIA’s Design & Print can help agents order materials to help their clients prepare for storm season. For more information on how Design & Print can help you, email Calley Rupp.

Conn.: Gov. Lamont schedules special election for Middlebury and Westbury

Gov. Ned Lamont announced last week that he scheduled a special election for Tuesday, Feb. 22, 2022. The election will fill the vacancy in the state House of Representatives for the 71st district seat, which represents Middlebury and parts of Westbury. The seat became vacant on Dec. 31, 2021, when former Rep. Anthony J. D’Amelio, R-71, resigned.

Conn.: CareerConneCT provides access to training programs

Gov. Lamont announced last week that he launched CareerConneCT, which is a program designed to help workers whose employment was impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Individuals in the state now will have access to short-term training programs with which they can earn an industry-recognized credential, and enter employment in high-quality and in-demand careers. The program is administered by the Connecticut Office of Workforce Strategy, and it has been allocated $70 million in funding from the American Rescue Plan Act. The first round of applications is open now, and training providers can apply through Sunday, Feb. 20, 2022.

N.H.: Auto-deductibles bill introduced in state Senate

Legislation (S.B.331) regarding auto deductibles was introduced to the state Senate earlier this month. If it’s signed into law, it would require any automobile insurance policy that contains physical-damage coverage for collision to waive any deductible of that coverage when the damage to a covered vehicle comes from an accident with another vehicle, and that vehicle’s operator is found to be the only person at fault. A public hearing for this bill is scheduled for Tuesday, Jan. 18, 2022, at 9:30 a.m. Any public testimony on this legislation must be given in-person. For more information on this legislation, watch your PIA Northeast publications.

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

Gov. Murphy announced Tuesday that he reinstated the public health emergency in response to rising cases of the Omicron variant of COVID-19, which will remain in effect until Friday, Feb. 11, 2022, unless it is renewed. The public health emergency will allow the state to continue vaccination or testing requirements in certain settings, implementation of any applicable recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and other critical components of the state’s response to the pandemic.

N.J.: Gov. Murphy delivers 2022 State of the State

Gov. Murphy delivered his 2022 State of the State address on Tuesday. Priorities that Murphy included in his address include increasing health-insurance enrollment across New Jersey by making health insurance more affordable; growing the state economy through the Innovation Evergreen Fund; improving efforts to recover the state’s economy for all New Jersey residents; and lowering property taxes for state homeowners.

N.Y.: Gov. Hochul delivers 2022 State of the State

Gov. Hochul delivered her 2022 State of the State address last week. During at the address, she announced the Billion Dollar Rescue Plan, which will respond to the needs of small businesses and ensure that disadvantaged, minority-owned and women-owned small businesses will prosper throughout the state. Additionally, Hochul announced new efforts to deliver $100 million in tax relief to 195,000 small businesses in New York, and the acceleration of $1.2 billion in New York’s existing Middle Class Tax Cut for 6 million New Yorkers—the implementation of which began in 2018. This plan also will establish a $1 billion property-tax rebate program that will give money back to more than 2 million New Yorkers who have endured rising costs as a result of the pandemic. And, Hochul announced a seven-pronged initiative to reimagine and overhaul New York’s approach to workforce development by focusing on regional needs, by creating and expanding access to career services and by identifying innovative ways to build the workforce in the future.

Vt.: Gov. Scott delivers 2022 State of the State

Gov. Phil Scott announced last week that he delivered his 2022 State of the State Address to the Vermont General Assembly. One of his main priorities is to support workers in Vermont and to grow the workforce by investing in training, education, housing and recruitment, while making Vermont more affordable to residents who already live in the state. Additionally, Scott’s priorities include investment in education, community health and safety, improvements to infrastructure, regulatory reform and pandemic recovery.

Vt.: Gov. Scott appoints Garofano to state House

Gov. Scott announced Tuesday that he appointed Democrat Golrang (Rey) Garofano to fill the vacancy in the state House of Representatives for the Chittenden-8-1 state legislative district, which represents Essex in Chittenden County. The House seat became vacant last month, when former Rep. Marybeth Redmond, D-Chittenden-8-1, resigned.

Advocacy

N.J.: PIANJ advocacy successful in ‘bad-faith’ legislation

The New Jersey state Assembly and the state Senate passed S-1559 on Jan. 10, 2022, with a 44-27-5, and a 22-13 vote, respectively. If it is signed, the legislation would allow consumers to bring “bad faith” lawsuits against insurers for an unreasonable delay or for an unreasonable denial of a claim, for the payment of benefits under an insurance policy. Recently, the bill was amended to limit the individual who may file a bad-faith claim and to limit the type of damages that can be recovered. PIANJ successfully advocated to have insurance producers excluded from the bill. If the bill is passed, PIANJ’s efforts will help protect producers from being sued for actions over which they had no control. Due to the association’s success in gaining the important amendment, the association has remained neutral about this bill—even though several insurance carriers have been advocating actively against it. For updates on this legislation, watch the PIAdvocacy bill tracker and your PIA Northeast publications.

N.Y.: Legislative ideas come from gaps in state law, irrelevance

Sometimes, when an event (e.g., hurricane or windstorm) happens, gaps in state law are revealed. Additionally, events like the pandemic may reveal that certain state laws are irrelevant. Often, these events are how opportunities to introduce legislation in the New York state Legislature are discovered—but state legislators, constituents and advocacy groups must consider myriad factors before they can get a bill introduced, such as recruiting a sponsor and getting the bill drafted.

N.Y.: Your one-stop shop for all things politics

Agents Advocacy Coalition—formerly PIANYPAC—has all the information you need to know about New York’s state elections. More than likely, the legislative primary elections and the vibrant battle between potential nominees for governor will make this election interesting. Luckily, you can count on Agents Advocacy Coalition, which will give you the latest updates on these races, as well as information on registration deadlines, early voting and how you can find your polling place.

Technical

N.Y.: Excess line premium tax filing reminder

The Excess Line Association of New York issued Bulletin No. 2022-02 on Monday, which reminds all licensed excess-line brokers to file a tax return (Premium Tax Statement) electronically, on or before Tuesday, March 15, 2022. They must file the return even if no business was placed under that license. New York—along with other states—assess up to a $500 penalty if brokers fail to file these returns.

Events

March 24-25: Connecticut Convention at the Hartford Marriott Downtown. Want to sponsor, exhibit or advertise?

April 27: Save the date: Long Island Regional Awareness Program at Crest Hollow

ICYMI

ICYMI: Disclosure requirement for No Surprises updated

The U.S. Department of Labor issued Field Assistance Bulletin No. 2021-03, which clarifies disclosure requirements for group health-plan insurers specifically. According to the bulletin, group health-plan agreements executed before Dec. 27, 2021—but effected after that date—are not subject to the disclosure requirements outlined in the No Surprises Act. The No Surprises Act requires insurers of individual health insurance coverage; group health insurance; and short-term, limited-duration insurance to inform insureds about any direct or indirect compensation. Additionally, they are required to report agent/broker compensation information to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. However, these requirements do apply to health-plan agreements that are executed, renewed or extended on or after Dec. 27, 2021. The bulletin also states that if a group health-insurance agent or broker enters a contract through a broker-of-record agreement, whether he or she must comply with the No Surprises Act depends on the date on which the BOR is submitted to the carrier and the date on which a group application is signed to obtain coverage for the following plan year. If the earlier of the two dates falls before Dec. 27, 2021, then the agent/broker does not need to comply.

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