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Mar 30
NYS DFS Requires Companies to Allow Deferment & Producers to Send Notice

​"The New York State Department of Financial Services (DFS) today adopted an emergency regulation requiring New York State regulated issuers of life insurance and annuity contracts, property and casualty insurers and premium finance agencies to provide relief to New York consumers and businesses experiencing financial hardship due to COVID-19.

  • Consumers experiencing financial hardship due to COVID-19 may defer paying life insurance premiums for ninety (90) days.
  • Consumers and small businesses experiencing financial hardship due to COVID-19 may defer paying premiums for property and casualty insurance for sixty (60) days.
  • Premium finance agencies are required to provide the same relief as insurers. Certain producers must notify insureds of this emergency measure pursuant to the regulation.
This follows Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s Executive Order No. 202.13."


REQUIRED ACTION

UPDATE (4/9/2020 at 3:48pm): ​Following a request from Big I New York, the New York State Department of Financial Services today said that insurance producers are not required to use U.S. Mail to send policyholder notices about a current moratorium on policy terminations. For more information, read more​Producers are allowed to send the required COVID-19 premium payment rule notices to clients by email, regardless of whether the clients have given prior consent. This will relieve them of the requirement to mail or deliver such notices. Guidance is available on DFS's website​.​​ For more info, read more.

NYS DFS is requiring producers to notify insur​eds of the emergency regulation's cancellation rules. The deadline for sending these notices is Monday, April 13, 2020.   Big I New York, with Keidel, Weldon, and Cunningham, LLP, have developed this sample wording for you to use in your notices.
 

What you need to do (as of 4/13/2020, at 5:00pm)Notify policyholders (individuals and small businesses that are independently owned and operated and have 100 or less employees) of the cancellation policy and grace period set forth in the emergency regulation. You may send a notice via email for all insureds you have an email address for (regardless of whether clients have given prior consent). Website posting and social media can be used in addition to this to get the word out.​ut.

By when: Monday, April 13, 2020 

We have your back: We have worked with our trusted E&O legal team at Keidel, Weldon and Cunningham, LLP to craft a template letter for you to use to comply.  Download and customize it here

Mar 30
On Our Mind: Tips for Working From Home

By Jim Lombardo, CPCU, AAI, AIM, MBA, AVP of Learning & Development​

​Like many others, I have been working from home this past week. Our house is a bit crowded and our routines are obviously off, but we have made it!!! My wife hasn’t asked me to go back to the office ...yet.

That being said, we should all take this time to:

  • Eat healthy- try to establish a diet with a bit more emphasis on fruits and vegetables
  • Exercise – even if you start small- a walk around the neighborhood (just maintain your six feet of distance to the next person!) 
  • Do something different- take a guitar lesson (you’d be surprised what you can find on YouTube), learn how to knit a scarf, build a model car, clean the downstairs closet!!
  • Be productive- have your staff call clients for pre-renewal reviews, scour policies for gaps and endorsement opportunities, work on a cross selling strategy, create a newsletter to send or email to your clients
  • TAKE Continuing Education CLASSES!!! – Big I NY has many, many webinars for you to take from the comfort of your desk or home. AND, The DFS has made it easier for you... they have removed the requirement to have your exam monitored and they have softened their stance on taking CE classes on line.
You can now even renew your license without the 15 hours of CE provided you complete those classes after things settle down. So take the classes now…

Here are some upcoming webinars you may find interesting as well as a link to our full education calendar.

Reg 187 - It's In YOUR Best Interest​

ABEN There's Only Ethics​

ABEN Risk Mgmt & Insurance-Why Agents Are NOT Risk Managers​

​ABEN Law of Ins Contrac​ts & Rules of Policy Interpretation​

​ABEN Little This a Little That: New Threats & Possibilities​​

Mar 27
NYSDFS Urges Insurance Firms To Help Customers During Pandemic

The New York State Department of Financial Services has asked the insurance entities it regulates to ease the financial hardship consumers and businesses are experiencing due to the COVID-19 outbreak. The department called on the industry to take "reasonable and prudent actions" in a circular letter published on March 19, 2020.

According to the letter, "In response to this crisis, DFS is issuing guidance to urge all regulated entities during this outbreak to do their part to alleviate the adverse impact caused by COVID-19 on those consumers and small businesses that can demonstrate financial hardship caused by COVID-19, including taking reasonable and prudent actions to support affected New Yorkers ..."

The department called on insurers and producers to take a number of measures where consumers are unable to meet obligations "due to COVID-19 disruptions" including:

  • "Offering payment accommodations, such as allowing consumers to defer payments at no cost, extending payment due dates, or waiving late or reinstatement fees ..."
  • Working with consumers to avoid cancellation of insurance policies for late payments of premiums; discovery of acts or omissions that may increase insured hazards; and physical changes to property.
  • Working with consumers to avoid non-renewal of insurance policies for failing to timely respond to a non-renewal notice.
  • "Increasing resources as necessary to accommodate increased claim submissions and increased inquiries from consumers about policy coverage ..."
  • Preparing clear and concise descriptions of coverage benefits that may be triggered as the COVID-19 situation continues to evolve. The letter advised insurers and producers to prominently display these on their websites and to send them in response to customer inquiries. These descriptions should be available from insurers, who had to prepare them in response to a March 10 data call from the department.
  • "Alerting consumers to the heightened risk of scams and price gouging ... "
  • "(R)eminding consumers to contact their insurance providers before purchasing unsolicited insurance policies or changing the terms of current insurance policies;"
  • "Ensuring that consumers do not experience a disruption of service if regulated entities close their offices ..."
  • "Providing flexibility regarding proof of death, disability, or other condition that triggers benefits ..."
  • "Providing consumers with information and timely access to all medically necessary covered health care services ..."
  • "Proactively reaching out to customers via app announcements, text, email, or otherwise ..."
  • Accommodating borrowers "to the extent reasonable and prudent ..."

Judging from the phone calls and emails Big I New York has received in the last few weeks, it appears that most member agencies are doing some or all of these things already. We advise all members:

  • Remember that the letter asks you to take actions that are "reasonable and prudent." The department is not asking you to take unwise risks.
  • For communications with customers, take advantage of the resources Big I New York is offering, as well as those of your carriers and sources such as Big I Virtual University and the Insurance Information Institute.
  • Keep in mind that customers may not be able to quickly do things they would normally be expected to do, such as produce a receipt for surrendered license plates or obtain a photo inspection of an automobile.
  • Communicate as much as possible with both your carriers and your customers. Alert both to problems before they become emergencies.

Most Big I New York staff are working remotely but are still accessible by phone or email if you have questions. Also, you can submit questions on the new Community page​ of this website.​​​​ Several conversations are going on there now. 

Keep calm and disinfect.​


Mar 27
NYSDFS: Even During Pandemic, Client Consent Required For Emailed Policies

UPDATE (4/6/2020 at 1:00am): ​Following repeated requests from Big I New York, the New York State Department of Financial Services has announced that insurance producers will be allowed to send the required COVID-19 premium payment rule notices to clients by email, regardless of whether the clients have given prior consent. This will relieve them of the requirement to mail or deliver such notices. Guidance is available on DFS's website​.​​ For more info, read our latest blog post.​​


The New York State Department of Financial Services has reaffirmed its opinion that insurers and producers must obtain a client's consent before providing electronic copies of policies.

Since the enactment of New York's Electronic Signatures and Records Act​ in 1999, the DFS has consistently interpreted it as requiring insurers and producers to obtain prior consent from clients before sending them any insurance documents in electronic form. Big I New York and others had suggested to the department that they waive the prior consent requirement during the state of emergency declared by the governor in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. 

However, a new post​ on the department's website repeated its traditional stance: "New York’s Electronic Signatures and Records Act ... and the federal Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act ... permit the insurance industry to use and accept electronic signatures and records if the consumer with which an individual or entity is doing business consents to engage in an electronic transaction. [Emphasis added] ... The Department does not require that the insurance industry obtain consent from a consumer in a particular way.  A consumer may consent to engaging in electronic transactions by sending an email to the regulated insurance person or entity affirmatively stating such, for example.  Regardless of how consent is obtained, the insurance industry must maintain proof that a consumer has affirmatively consented to engaging in electronic transactions."

Big I New York members have access to a sample consenst agreement that has been reviewed and approved by our attorneys. They can download it from the Electronic Policy Delivery page in the Answer Center at www.biginy.org. Click on "Helpful Tools" and look for the link to "Sample Electronic Consent Form."​


Mar 25
E&O Risk Management and the Coronavirus (COVID-19)

By Swiss RE Corporate Solutions

You are all very aware of the events of the last several weeks and the Coronavirus. We are not health experts and there are many others more qualified to give you that advice. We CAN, however, give advice regarding how to reduce the likelihood of an errors and omissions exposure as a result of this event. We have already become aware of some attorneys who are trying to take advantage of this situation for monetary gain against insurance agents. Our advice during this event is no different from what we have said in the past.  If your agency has developed good practices, you will be better positioned to avoid problems.  Here are the practices of a good insurance agency:

  • DON’T MAKE CLAIMS DECISIONS! Let the insurance carriers do that. 
  • DON’T ADVISE YOUR CUSTOMERS IF CORONAVIRUS related claims are COVERED OR NOT! Let the insurance carriers do that.
  • If a carrier takes the position that losses arising from the Coronavirus are not, or may not be covered, do not engage in advocacy asserting that "We thought it was covered..." That will simply be used by your client to prove that you knew the client wanted coverage for perils like the Coronavirus, but you failed to procure coverage.
  • Report all claims and potential claims to EACH AND EVERY CARRIER that could potentially have a policy that could apply. This includes CGL, Personal lines, Umbrella, Excess, Workers Compensation, Specialty and any other policy in place for your customers. 
  • USE THE RESOURCES PROVIDED TO YOU BY THE IIABA. Follow this link to the Coronavirus webpage. It is a valuable resource for you, your staff and your agency that provides many sources of information. 
  • Be empathetic, but don’t tell anyone that something is covered or not. You can continue to tell them you feel sympathy for all affected by the Coronavirus, but customers MUST report a claim to their insurance carrier to determine if there is any coverage for the event. 
  • Remember, if you executed an  agency agreement with one or more insurance companies, you MUST report all claims or potential claims as required by that agreement, even if your customer tells you not to do so.
  • Maintain vigilant contact with your insurance carriers to determine what action THEY want you to take. 
  • DOCUMENT DOCUMENT DOCUMENT!!! This continues to be the foundation of sound E&O risk management. DOCUMENT EACH AND EVERY TELEPHONE CONVERSATION, EMAIL, TEXT, TWEET, OR ANY OTHER TYPE OF COMMUNICATION WITH YOUR CUSTOMERS! 
  • Assume that any telephone conversation with your customers or carrier claims representatives ARE BEING RECORDED. While some states prohibit recording of telephone conversations without advising that they are doing so, IT DOESN’T STOP SOME PEOPLE FROM DOING SO. 
  • If you use social media for your business, make sure it is up to date! Do not make any promises that something may or may not be covered by insurance companies and policies. 
  • DO NOT GIVE ANY STATEMENTS, RECORDED OR OTHERWISE, WITHOUT FIRST CONTACTING YOUR E&O PROVIDER. The Swiss Re Corporate Solutions/Westport Insurance Company/First Specialty Insurance Company claims staff are available if you have any questions about any communications you receive. 
  • If you have a conversation with your customer that leads you to believe they may be fishing to make a claim against you, DO NOT HESITATE to contact our claims department. 
  • DON’T MAKE CLAIMS DECISIONS! DON’T ADVISE YOUR CUSTOMERS IF SOMETHING IS COVERED OR NOT! Let the insurance carriers do that. We know this was stated before, but it must be ingrained in your mind. 
  • If the Coronavirus ends up being declared a "catastrophe" by the ISO Property Claims Service, you may be eligible under your Westport policy for "Cat Extra Expense" benefits:  
"CATASTROPHE EXTRA EXPENSE. We will pay up to $25,000 per catastrophe subject to a per POLICY PERIOD aggregate limit of $50,000 for the actual extra expenses incurred by you as a result of a catastrophe during the POLICY PERIOD beginning on the date of a catastrophe and for thirty (30) days thereafter. The extra expense incurred must be incurred by you only to assist in the insurance claims processing needs of your customer(s) who have been affected by the catastrophe. The catastrophe must be a declared catastrophe by the Property Claims Services. A $500 deductible for each catastrophe shall apply. Limits provided by this paragraph are part of and not in addition to the limits provided by this POLICY."

We hope that this will help you as this event progresses. If you should have any questions, please let us know. 


This article is intended to be used for general informational purposes only and is not to be relied upon or used for any particular purpose. Swiss Re shall not be held responsible in any way for, and specifically disclaims any liability arising out of or in any way connected to, reliance on or use of any of the information contained or referenced in this article. The information contained or referenced in this article is not intended to constitute and should not be considered legal, accounting or professional advice, nor shall it serve as a substitute for the recipient obtaining such advice. The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of the Swiss Re Group ("Swiss Re") and/or its subsidiaries and/or management and/or shareholders.  

​Copyright 2020 Swiss Re ​​


Mar 25
​News from NYS DFS Regarding CE, License Renewals and Exams
  • The NYS DFS is ​temporarily allowing self-monitoring of exams (waiving the requirement to have a monitor present).​​
  • An increased number of online CE courses are available, and the monitoring requirement is temporarily waived.
  • The NYS DFS is allowing agents and brokers in danger of having their license expire, to renew without having the required CE in place.

Today, Big I NY received the following communication:

“In response to the current public health threat the Covid-19 virus presents to the general public, New York State Department of Financial Services Licensing Services is implementing temporary emergency procedures in regards to insurance continuing education testing and license renewal.

Effective immediately the requirement to have an approved monitor present when taking the course final exam has been waived.  Approved course providers who offer online learning are permitted to amend their course procedures to allow licensees to access the final exam without being in the presence of an approved monitor or providing a valid monitor approval number.  The integrity of the course as well as the exam should still be maintained by requiring that the learner log in and take the course as normal; course completion documents and roster reporting should still be submitted as usual."


We have approved webinars which do not require classroom exposure or a monitored exam.

Online CE is available and we have temporarily waived the monitored examination requirement so you can get credits without any exposure.

Lastly, for licensees in danger of expiring the system will allow you to renew without the CE in place. However, licensees are expected to make up the CE within a reasonable time period after this crisis has passed.”

Big I NY is here to assist you and your staff during these crazy times. If you have any questions or concerns about this and/or would like to discuss it further, please contact our education department at edu@biginy.org​ or call 1-800-962-7950 and our team would be happy to chat with you.

We have many upcoming webinars that you can take from your home, desk or office. 

Mar 25
Some Considerations for Laying Off Employees

Given the turbulent and uncertain circumstances surrounding the impacts of the coronavirus and stay-at-home orders, many companies are making hard decisions about laying off their employees.  Here are a few thoughts to consider.

"Furlough" vs. "Layoff": Furlough is usually temporary while a layoff may be temporary or permanent. There is usually no legal commitment to rehire an employee unless required by a collective bargaining agreement or employment contract or possibly if you fall under the WARN Act.  It is important not to create a promise or a legal obligation to rehire and explicitly state that nothing affects their rights under employment at will.

Hiring back employees who are furloughed:  Re-complete new hire paperwork such as I-9's and W-4's and, if possible, reinstate all seniority benefits (leave, pay grade, etc.) to pre-furloughed levels upon rehire. If allowed by your carriers, waive new hire eligibility requirements for benefits such as health care and 401k participation. If possible, letting your employees know this prior to the layoff will provide some reassurance to them during this difficult time. 

Unemployment is changing: The federal government has relaxed many unemployment requirements allowing the states to do the same.  Several states have waived the 7-day waiting period and the looking-for-work requirement for most positions. While you cannot guarantee an employee will receive unemployment, you can assure them that you will not dispute their appeal if they are denied and need to file one.

Final Pay: Follow your state laws regarding timing of paying employee wages for hours worked.  Some states require same day payout while others allow you to wait until the next regular payday.  Notify employees when they can expect this pay.

Benefits: If an employee has health insurance coverage, let them know their options under COBRA and if you are choosing to pay some portion of their COBRA premium and/or what their obligation under COBRA will be.  In addition, you may want to let them know if your state is re-opening its ACA marketplace health insurance pools.

Paid Time Off:  Some states require employers to pay out available PTO upon separation. If your employee's state does not, then you can require them to use PTO, pay it out, or allow them to save it for later in the year.  You should follow your established policy but can make a one-time exception.  Please note the Families First Coronavirus Response Act does not allow employers to require employees to use other PTO in certain situations.

Please reach out to Affinity HR Group If we can assist with any specific situation you may have.

Mar 24
How to Surrender Plates while the DMV is Closed

We reached out for clarification on this common question and learned registrants should continue to mail registration plates to the DMV. NY DMV’s Central Office has not closed. They continue to receive and process mail. 

The DMV uses the postmark date on the envelope as the date of surrender; this date will be reflected on the FS-6T Receipt.

More information:

https://dmv.ny.gov/registration/how-surrender-return-or-turn-your-plates-dmv


​Have a question you need help with? Post it in the Community​!




Mar 23
State Fund Announces Relief For Restaurants

​The New York State Insurance Fund (NYSIF) has announced measures to help the restaurants it insures cope with the COVID-19 pandemic. Restaurants have been among the businesses hardest hit by the crisis, as their businesses were slowing even before the New York State government ordered them to close.

In a notice to its restaurant policyholders, New York's largest provider of Workers' Compensation insurance said it is suspending cancellations, late fees, interest and installment fees on their policies. NYSIF also invited these employers to contact their policy representatives or safety group managers to have their estimated payrolls reduced. Reductions in estimated payrolls typically generate reduced estimated premiums.

The notice encouraged all employers who have not created online accounts with NYSIF to do so. It also referred employers to specific government agencies for potential assistance with surviving the crisis.


Mar 20
Understanding New York's New Paid Sick Time Law

On March 18th, Governor Cuomo signed a bill intended to address employee sick leave, both in connection with the COVID-19 outbreak, and more generally. The bill took effect immediately.

SUMMARY OF BENEFITS

Employer SizeCovid-19 Benefits (Effective Immediately)Sick Leave Benefits (Effective 9/14/20)
4 or fewer employees and net profits of $1 million or lessUnpaid sick leave for the duration of the Quarantine Order 40 hours of unpaid leave
5-99 employees or net profits of more than $1 million5 days paid leave then unpaid sick leave for the duration of the Quarantine Order40 hours of paid leave
100+ employees14 days paid sick leave then unpaid sick leave for the duration of the Quarantine Order56 hours of paid leave

 

This bill guarantees paid or unpaid sick leave to employees subject to a mandatory or precautionary order of quarantine or isolation issued by the state of New York department of health, local board of health or any governmental entity duly authorized to issue such order due to COVID-19 (a “Quarantine Order"). Employees would be entitled to unpaid sick leave for the duration of the Quarantine Order. Such employees of employers who either had a net income of more than $1 million in the previous tax year or who employed 11 to 99 employees as of January 1, 2020 would be entitled to 5 days of paid sick leave during the duration of the Quarantine Order. Employees of companies who employed at least 100 employees as of January 1, 2020 would be entitled to 14 days of paid sick leave during the duration of the Quarantine Order.

Once employees have exhausted any paid sick leave available to them as a result of a Quarantine Order, they are eligible for paid family leave and disability benefits. These benefits are available on the first full day of the unpaid period caused by a Quarantine Order. For the purposes of benefits under this bill, the definition of “family leave" is amended to include leave taken because the employee is subject to a Quarantine Order or to care for a minor dependent child subject to a Quarantine Order. The definition of “disability" is amended to include an employee's inability to perform the regular duties of his or her employment, or other employment offered to him or her by his employer, as a result of a Quarantine Order.

There are three notable exceptions to the benefits provided by this portion of the bill. If the Federal Government adopts any law or regulation that provides similar benefits, that law will supersede the benefits provided by this bill, except to the extent that the benefits provided by this bill are more generous. The benefits provided by this bill do not apply where the employee is “deemed asymptomatic"[1] or has not yet been diagnosed with a medical condition and is physically able to work while under the Quarantine Order. An employee is not entitled to receive any paid benefits where the Quarantine Order was put in place because the employee has returned to from traveling to a country for which the CDC has a level two or three travel health notice, where the travel was not part of the employee's employment and the employee had notice of both the health notice and this restriction on benefits.

In addition to providing sick leave in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, the bill also would set up a permanent sick leave regime. Employers who had a net income of $1 million or less during the prior calendar year and who employ 4 or fewer employees in a given calendar year must provide employees with 40 hours of unpaid sick leave. Employers with net profit of $1 million or more during the prior calendar year or who employed between 5 and 99 employees during a given calendar year must provide at least 40 hours of paid sick leave. Employers who employ at least 100 employees in a given calendar year must provide 56 hours of paid sick leave.

Starting January 1, 2021, employees with accrued sick leave may take that sick leave if they or a family member have a mental or physical illness, injury or health condition, to allow for the employee or employee's family member to have such a condition diagnosed, cared for or treated, or to allow for an absence due to the employee being a victim of domestic violence, a sexual offense, stalking or human trafficking or to permit the employee or a family member of the employee to obtain services relating to their being a victim of such crimes. An employee can request sick leave orally or in writing and an employer may not require the employee to disclose confidential information relating to the reason for that sick leave. The condition triggering sick leave need not have been diagnosed or require care to qualify for sick leave. An employer may take sick leave in any increment, but employers may set a reasonable minimum increment for the use of sick leave not exceeding 4 hours. Employees that take sick leave are entitled to compensation at the greater of his or her regular rate of pay or the applicable minimum wage.

Sick leave will accrue at a rate of 1 hour per 30 hours worked, calculated from the date of employment, or effective date of the law (180 days after passage of the bill), whichever is later. An employer may elect to provide its employees with the total amount of required sick leave at the beginning of a calendar year. If they do, the amount provided cannot be reduced due to the number of hours actually worked. Accrued sick leave rolls over each calendar year, but employers may limit the use of sick leave to 56 hours per year, or 40 hours per year if the employer employs 99 or fewer employees. Employees are not entitled to payment for unused sick leave.

Employers must maintain records of the sick leave provided to their employees for at least six years. Employees may request a summary of sick leave accrued and used in a current or previous year, and the employer must provide the employee with that summary within 3 days of the request.

Where an employer already provides employees with sick leave on terms that are at least as generous as provided by this bill, the bill will not require the employer to provide the employee with additional sick leave benefits. The bill permits New York City to enact or enforce local laws or ordinances which provide employers with more favorable benefits.

For the purposes of determining the number of employees employed during a “calendar year," “calendar year" means January 1 through December 31. Otherwise, an employer may choose a different twelve-month period to treat as a calendar year, so long as they continue to use that period going forward.

Employers may not take or threaten any adverse employment action against employees who take advantage of leave permitted under this bill, i.e. leave related to a Quarantine Order or regular sick leave. Upon returning to work, employers must be restored to the same position and on the same terms and conditions of employment as they held prior to taking leave.

One issue of particular note for insurance agencies and brokerages is that the mandates contained in the bill apply only to “employees." As many insurance producers are independent contractors, they may not be entitled to benefits under this bill or count towards the number of employees that are considered employed by an employer. However, whether a worker is an “employee" or an “independent contractor" can be a complicated question, which cannot always be resolved based solely upon how the worker is paid or the terms used by the employer and/or the worker in defining the relationship. Employers should consult an attorney if they have any question regarding whether a worker is an “employee" for the purposes of this bill.

​Submitted by Walker Lewis, Esq., Keidel, Weldon & Cunningham 



[1] The bill does not specify how an employee would be “deemed asymptomatic" or who is able to make this determination.


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