What you need to know:
- The state legislature is anticipated to reconvene throughout the year, rather than adjourning in mid-June as is typical
- The legislature’s focus will be COVID-19, with many issues likely to affect IAs and policyholders
- We don’t yet know to what extent other issues will be considered.
These are truly uncharted waters. Since mid-March, New York’s policy response to COVID-19 has been spearheaded by the state’s executive branch, through executive orders and emergency regulations. Until last week, the legislature was largely out of the picture.
That changed on May 23rd, when Senate and Assembly leaders announced they would resume work virtually, beginning with committee meetings and then reconvening session with members voting remotely. Committee meetings were held, and it is believed the legislature will reconvene in the next few weeks, though a date has not been announced.
Even with the regular legislative process disrupted, many new bills have been introduced to address COVID-19 crisis. Several would significantly affect you and your customers.
Business Interruption Coverage Mandates:
The insurance issue which is receiving the most attention is that of the applicability of business interruption coverage for COVID-19 related losses. Legislation has been introduced in both the Senate and Assembly which would retroactively mandate that business interruption coverage include pandemic-related losses. As we have reported previously, such a proposals are fundamentally unworkable, likely unconstitutional, and ineffective at providing small businesses with necessary relief. To date, none of these bills have been voted on in committee. Big I NY supports a federal proposal to provide universally available business continuity protection as a more equitable and effective solution.
Liability Protections for Responsible Businesses:
A recent poll found that more than 1 in 3 people are willing to sue their employer over COVID-19, even when the employer closely followed every protocol to sanitize the premises, maintain social distancing, require face masks and conduct COVID-19 testing of all employees. New York businesses face great uncertainty about their future legal exposure, particularly in our state’s notoriously litigious environment. Big I NY and allies in the business community are calling on lawmakers to adopt common sense liability protections for responsible businesses.
Workers Compensation – Presumption of Workplace Exposure:
Several pending bills would create a rebuttable presumption that COVID-19 is an occupational disease and therefore covered by workers’ compensation. One would apply to all workers, while another proposal would apply only to front line workers. Such proposals are likely to add substantial costs to workers’ compensation coverage; however, they could also help shield businesses from tort claims. We continue to monitor these bills and similar ones.
We are only at the “end of the beginning” of COVID-19, and New York’s policy response is likely to go on for years. We expect that the legislature will continue to meet intermittently throughout the summer, and may even return post-election for a lame duck session. Expect no shortage of new, and perhaps novel, bills to cross lawmakers’ desks.
We will continue to track all new legislation and weigh in with lawmakers on those that affect you and your customers.