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Category: Advocacy

Mar 30
NYS DFS Requires Insurers & Premium Finance Companies to Allow Deferment

​"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."


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 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.


Mar 20
Cuomo Administration: Insurance Considered "Essential Business"

​​​Today, the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) issued further guidance that insurance is considered an "essential business" and therefore not subject to the workforce reduction requirement. Big I NY sent a letter to ESDC requesting this action yesterday. Our understanding is this exemption is intended to apply to all insurance-related businesses including agencies and brokerages. 

However, please be advised that the best practice is still for you to have as many people as possible work from remote locations. Also, per the ESDC, you still must maintain a clean and safe work environment as required by the New York State Health Department.

For more Coronavirus resources, visit our resource page.​


Mar 20
NYSIF’s Approach with Policyholders Regarding the Coronavirus

​Big I NY President & CEO, Lisa Lounsbury spoke to Eric Madoff, CEO & Executive Director at New York State Insurance Fund, this morning regarding NYSIF’s approach to work with policyholders regarding the coronavirus.  We are very pleased to share the following correspondence that will go out to NYSIF policyholders later today.  In addition to offering premium payment flexibility, NYSIF recognizes that payrolls may decrease and is willing to adjust premium payments to meet policyholder needs.​​​

​Dear Policyholder,

Extraordinary times call for extraordinary solutions. As the coronavirus (COVID-19) takes its toll on New York businesses, NYSIF stands ready to help by lowering your premium to reflect current business conditions and extending payment terms to those who need them.  

We realize that some of our policyholders may be experiencing financial difficulties at this time. If you’ve experienced a significant decrease in your payroll, please contact your Policy Representative or Safety Group Manager to lower your premium. If you are experiencing coronavirus-related financial difficulties, we can adjust your premium payments to help meet your financial situation. To contact your Policy Representative, please visit our website at nysif.com, click “Get Policy Help” and have your policy number handy. 

For those policyholders who do not have a NYSIF online account, we strongly encourage you to sign up; it’s simple and easy. Having an online account will allow you to access important, up to date policy information and will allow NYSIF to quickly and effectively communicate vital information to you. To create a NYSIF online account, please visit our website at nysif.com.

There are a number of organizations offering coronavirus-related financial assistance. Below are two you may find helpful.

As always, NYSIF remains committed to meeting the needs of you and your employees. We want to help you and your business during the difficult days and weeks ahead. Thank you.​​

Mar 19
Big I NY, Other Producer Associations Call for Reg 79 Suspension, CE and License Renewal Grace Period During COVID-19 Pandemic

Today, Big I NY, along with other industry trade groups, ​ sent a letter to DFS Superintendent Linda Lacewell urging the department to take critical steps to protect policyholders.

Together, we call on the DFS to protect consumers’ ability to obtain comprehensive and collision insurance by suspending the photo inspection requirement in Regulation 79. With current staffing limitations, and social distancing directives, customers are unable to travel to inspection locations.

Furthermore, we call on the DFS to implement a grace period for CE and license renewal requirements for the duration of the current State of Emergency. Insurance agents and brokers face increased difficulty in obtaining the required continuing education credits and renewing their individual licenses. Now more than ever, customers must be able to count on their agents and brokers for help navigating their insurance challenges. 

Big I NY has your – and your customers’ - backs. Taken together, these measures will help protect New York policyholders during their time of greatest need.​
Mar 19
Big I New York Calls On Governor Cuomo To Declare Insurance Services “Essential”

​March 19, 2020 - Today, Lisa Lounsbury, Big I New York President and CEO, asked the Empire State Development Corporation to declare that insurance agencies and brokerages do provide essential services to the public in response to an executive order mandating businesses decrease their in-office workforce by 75 percent by 8 p.m. Friday, March 20. 

This follows the Governor's directive yesterday that all businesses and not-for-profit entities in the state shall implement, to the maximum extent possible, any telecommuting or work from home procedures that they can safely utilize. Any essential business or entity providing essential services or functions shall not be subject to the in-person restrictions. This includes banks and related financial institutions.

Big I NY asserts that independent insurance agencies and brokerages are financial institutions in that they sell financial contracts and provide services to insurance buyers. It is our opinion that they should be considered “related financial institutions” within the terms of this executive order because they provide essential services to the public, including:

  • Receiving first reports from policyholders of incidents for which they make claims against their insurance coverages
  • Acting as intermediaries between insurance claimants and the insurers providing coverages
  • Obtaining insurance for businesses and households in immediate need of coverage (for example, individuals who must quickly obtain Homeowners Insurance for closings on home mortgage loans)
  • Issuing Automobile Liability Insurance identification cards for purchasers of new and used motor vehicles, who must produce the cards to the Department of Motor Vehicles at the time of vehicle registration
  • Answering questions from the public about their insurance coverages, particularly as those coverages pertain to the present crisis
  • Accepting premium payments from the public
“I ask that you deem independent insurance agencies and brokerages to be 'essential businesses or entities providing essential services or functions' and not subject to the in-person restrictions described in the executive order,” Lounsbury said. Insurance policyholders rely on their independent agents and brokers to provide services whenever they need them. Consequently, it is critical that agencies and brokerages have sufficient staff on hand to provide these services. It’s imperative that agencies have the flexibility to determine the right staffing plan for their business, one that allows for safety of employees while serving the needs of their customers.

Big I New York will be closely monitoring this Executive Order and will provide updates on the status and clarification of insurance agencies and brokers with relation to it as they become available. Please visit the Coronavirus (COVID-19) News and Resource page on our website at BigINY.org/Coronavirus for resources, including remoting working information. Feel free to reach out to us with any questions on this or any other aspect of how the Coronavirus pandemic affects your business. Even during these difficult moments, Big I New York always has your back.
Mar 13
Breaking: Big I NY Files Appeal to Reg 187 Ruling

​​Today, Big I New York filed an appeal in our ongoing legal challenge against the New York State Department of Financial Services (DFS) over the first amendment to Regulation 187, which imposes a "best interest" standard for the sale of life insurance and annuities. We continue to believe this regulation is unwarranted, creates substantial compliance burdens, and will harm consumers by making it harder to obtain affordable life insurance coverage.

Big I New York filed our initial legal challenge to the amendment in November 2018, asserting six key arguments, including that the Department exceeded its authority, failed to follow proper rulemaking procedures, and created a regulation that is unconstitutionally vague, as well as arbitrary and capricious.

On July 31st, 2019, the trial court ruled in favor of the Department, upholding the amended regulation. In September 2019, we announced our intention to appeal the ruling, and today that appeal was filed with the Third Department of the New York State Supreme Court's Appellate Division.

"This marks an important milestone in our efforts to stand up for New York's independent insurance agents and preserve our customers' ability to access affordable insurance coverage," said John Cofini, chair of the Big I NY board. "We believe strongly in the merits of our case, and are confident the appellate court will agree."

The annuities requirements of the regulation took effect on August 1, 2019, and the life insurance requirements took effect on February 1, 2020. While we continue the fight, all agents and brokers selling life insurance and annuities in New York must ensure they are currently compliant with the new "best interest" requirements. Compliance resources are available to Big I NY members here. We anticipate the regulation will remain in effect through the duration of litigation.

We do not have an exact timeframe, but expect the appellate court will issue a decision in late 2020. We will keep you apprised of any relevant developments in the case.

When it comes to standing up for you and your customers, Big I NY has your back.

Contact Scott Hobson if you have any questions.​​​

Mar 05
Big I NY Members Storm the Capitol for Independent Agents Advocacy Day

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This week, Big I NY members from Buffalo to Long Island traveled to Albany to urge lawmakers to take action on a number of key issues affecting IAs and our customers.

IMG_7846.jpgDelegations from nearly all of our local associations, including many members of the Group of 100​, kicked off the day with a briefing session before departing for meetings with state lawmakers representing their region. Members urged lawmakers to reject a significant expansion of the Department of Financial Services' authority to prosecute unfair, deceptive, and abusive business practices, as well as a dramatic and unwarranted increase in insurance law fines and penalties.

IMG_7594.jpgBig I NY agents also called for the passage of bills to raise the payroll threshold for the Workplace Safety and Loss Prevention Program (Insurance Code Rule 59), eliminate the 30-day notice requirement for withdrawing from the State Insurance Fund, reform the auto photo inspection requirement (Insurance Regulation 79), and protect consumers from surprise premium increases by requiring insurers to run an applicant's motor vehicle record prior to binding auto coverage. Agents urged lawmakers to oppose legislation to ban the use of lead paint exposure exclusions in rental property coverage.

IMG_7770.jpgMember agents stressed the importance of these proposals to protecting consumers and ensuring the availability and affordability of insurance coverage. All told, we met with over 50 lawmakers, including Senate and Assembly leadership, minority leaders, and the Chairman of the Assembly Insurance Committee. Big I NY members also sent over 150 emails to lawmakers as part of our "Virtual Advocacy Day."

Thank you to all who attended this empowering day!

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Feb 21
2/14 Legislative Call Recording Now Available

Did you miss last week's legislative update call? You can now access the recording here​!

In this call, Big I NY provided updates on issues in the state budget, 2020 legislative priorities, Independent Agents Advocacy Day, and new training resources available to Big I NY members.

Legislative update calls are held every other week during legislative session. View the schedule and register here

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