COVID-19

What You Need to Know

 

In light of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, your independent agents at Seely & Durland understand the anxiety and uncertainty you are experiencing around the evolving situation, and we are committed to being flexible and responsive to our clients’ needs. While we continue to monitor this situation closely, we are actively taking steps to make sure we are able to provide you with the service you need. As we continue to receive calls and emails regarding the insurance implications of the pandemic, we will continue to provide you with relevant and timely information on how the coronavirus affects you, your family, your business, and your employees.

Social, health, business, economic, and regulatory circumstances have been changing by the day as a result of the virus outbreak. We will be updating this resource page on a regular basis as new information is released or divulged. Please stay tuned for further updates on how the insurance industry, as well as the state and federal governments, will affect you and your business, home, and life insurance.

 

Table of Contents:

  1. Business Interruption
  2. Workers’ Compensation
  3. Surrendering Plates to DMV
  4. Paid Family Leave (PFL) and Disability (DBL)
  5. Loans and Resources

 

Business Interruption

One of the most common questions we’ve received relates to business income coverage — specifically whether there is business income coverage if a governmental authority (civil authority) requires businesses to close. Another common question is whether or not business income coverage will respond if they lose income as a result of decreased business or mandated business closures, with people avoiding public places and staying at home.

Unfortunately, the short answer is no. While there is proposed legislation that would require insurers to retroactively cover business insurance claims due to COVID-19, there is no business income coverage for either of the circumstances above. There is no doubt that small businesses are going to be adversely affected by this global pandemic. Unfortunately, at this point, the insurance industry is not providing the relief that we all wish it would.

Business interruption coverages provide loss of income and extra expense following a covered loss. Contained in many of the business interruption coverages is a provision for loss of income when a civil authority prohibits access to your premises as a result of a covered loss to property at premises other than yours. These coverages may appear in your policy as loss of income, loss of earnings, gross earnings, loss of rents, extra expense, or additional expense.

Before this coverage can respond, there must be direct physical damage to property by a covered peril leading to the cessation of a business. This requirement also applies to business income for dependent property losses (supply chain) and civil authority losses covered by business income policies. Illnesses do not constitute direct loss or damage to covered property, thus leading to a cessation of business operations. Additionally, there is a specific property exclusion applicable to viruses that will generally apply. This is true of “standard” business income forms. There may be some proprietary forms that would respond, but we have not found any in our research. In addition, there are some insurance carriers who will add an exclusion for “communicable diseases,” broadening the standard exclusion to viruses.

 

Coronavirus as a Workers’ Comp Claim

The continuous global spread of the coronavirus has many employers curious if they would be held responsible if an employee contracts the virus. It’s not likely that the coronavirus would create a workers’ compensation exposure at this time. That said, if the employee has an increased risk of contracting the virus due to the peculiarity of his or her job, the coronavirus could be considered occupational, and therefore compensable.

What makes an illness an “occupational illness,” and therefore compensable under workers’ compensation? Or, more specifically, how might workers’ compensation respond to the coronavirus?

Two tests must be satisfied before any illness or disease, including the coronavirus, qualifies as occupational — and thus compensable — under workers’ compensation: A) The illness or disease must arise out of and be contracted in the course and scope of the employment. B) The illness or disease must arise out of or be caused by “conditions peculiar” to the work.

Whether an illness arises “out of and in the course and scope of employment” is a function of the employee’s activities. The simplest test toward determining whether an injury arises out of and in the course and scope of employment is to ask: was the employee benefiting the employer when exposed to the illness or disease? However, keep in mind this test is subject to interpretations and intricacies.

Something crucial to consider is that contracting the virus at work is not enough to trigger the assertion that it is a compensable occupational illness. To be occupational and compensable in the eyes of insurance companies requires something peculiar about the work that increases the likelihood of getting sick. It is unlikely that both the “occupational” and “peculiar” thresholds can be satisfied to make most illnesses compensable for the vast majority of individuals; the same is true of the new coronavirus.

 

How to Surrender (Return) NYS Plates to the DMV

If you need to surrender your plates, they can be mailed to the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). The DMV has indicated they will use the mail postmark date as the surrender date. You can also complete a Plate Surrender Application (PD-7) for each set of plates you are surrendering. The DMV has also indicated they will mail the FS-6T receipt if you request a return receipt by registered or certified mail.

NYS DMV mailing address:  6 Empire State Plaza | Room B240 | Albany, NY 12229

Click here for additional details.

Please note: if you need to surrender plates from another state, you need to surrender them to that state’s DMV, not the NYS DMV.

More DMV-related information:

  • As of the weekend of 3/21/2020, all state and county-run DMV offices are closed.
  • More than 60 online transactions remain available, including registration and license renewal, as well as the ability to plead or pay NYC traffic tickets.
  • All road test appointments and salvage vehicle appointments are canceled until further notice.
  • Those needing to register a new or used car will have to wait until offices reopen.
  • Enhanced Drivers License applications are on hold until offices reopen, as Federal authorities require in-person processing.
  • When DMV offices reopen and road tests return, applicants with canceled reservations will be given priority for rescheduling.

 

New York State Paid Family Leave (PFL) and Disability (DBL)

3/18/2020 Update

By order of NYS Governor Andrew Cuomo, if an employee is under an order of mandatory or precautionary quarantine or isolation by the State of New York, the Department of Health, a local board of health, or any government entity duly authorized to issue such an order due to COVID-19, PFL and/or DBL benefits may be available to them. As such, updated PFL and DBL forms have been made available, allowing covered employees to file claims themselves if they are quarantined, and/or if they must care for a quarantined child or children.

You can view the bill here. These provisions are effective immediately.

Employers of 99 or fewer employees are obligated to:

  • Notify employees of the availability of leave as described.
  • Provide job-protected leave as described.
  • Provide documents required for employees to apply for PFL and/or DBL.

Provisions of the bill include:

  • Employers of 10 or fewer as of January 1, 2020, must provide unpaid sick time during an employee’s period of ordered quarantined or isolation, except those employers with net income of more than $1 million, which must provide five days of paid sick leave.
  • Employers of 11 – 99 must provide five days of paid sick leave.
  • Employers of 100 or more must provide up to14 days of paid sick leave.
  • Public employers must provide at least 14 days of paid sick leave

Addition notes:

Benefits are not available to employees deemed asymptomatic or not yet diagnosed with any medical condition and physically able to work, whether through remote access or other means.

For employers of 99 employees or less, should an employee’s period of quarantine or isolation extend beyond available sick time, the employee would be able to apply for NYS PFL and DBL concurrently. Benefit amounts would be a combination of payments from PFL and from DBL up to 100% of an employee’s average weekly wage for those employees earning up to $150,000 per year.

There is no waiting period for the commencement of DBL payments under these circumstances. PFL benefits may also be used to care for a dependent minor child under such a mandatory quarantine or isolation order. This provision does not apply in cases where the child’s school is closed and requires daycare.

Available forms (source: LiDAC):

Request for COVID-19 Quarantine DB/PFL – Self 

Request for COVID-19 Quarantine PFL – Child

Employer/employee notices providing a basic summary of what employers and employees need to know about COVID-19 paid sick leave have been made available:

COVID-19 Paid Sick Leave – Employers

COVID-19 Paid Sick Leave – Employees

For more detail and information, click here.

 

Loans and Resources

Click here for information on the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) loans and programs for businesses impacted by COVID-19.

Find out here if you qualify as a small business for government contracting purposes.

Visit the Orange County Government website for information on economic development, COVID-19 fact lines, the Summary of Cares Act, and other loans and resources.

Click here for information on the Orange County Industrial Development Agency (IDA) Economic Recovery Program, helping to revitalize local businesses impacted by COVID-19. Affected businesses will be able to use the Orange County IDA as a resource to reboot their operations.

For more information on the illness, please refer to the CDC’s fact sheet or FAQ section of the CDC website.

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If you have any questions about the virus and how it relates to you, your family, or your business, contact us at 845-986-1177.

Please click here for our staff directory or here for a listing of our direct lines and emails.