EPIC Risk Advisory Bulletin

Volume 1, Issue 6

The global COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic remains both dynamic and fluid. We continue to see unprecedented disruptions at home and abroad.

In this issue, we take a focused look at how coronavirus is impacting the transportation industry, including how to keep truckers rolling, and recent DOL decisions. We also consider how pressure from lawmakers may impact the outcomes of Business Interruption claims and provide updates on the CARES Act, as well as wellness and employee benefits insights.

  1. General Information on Coronavirus
  2. Supply Chain and Business Risks
    • The Unsung Heroes of the Coronavirus Crisis
    • Keeping Truckers Rolling
    • U.S. DOL Announces Temporary FFCRA Non-Enforcement
  3. Insurance Products and Coverage Information
    • P&C Webinar Answers Questions on Property Policies and Claims Filing
    • Will Pressure From Lawmakers Change Outcomes of Insurance Claims?
  4. Human Resources and Employee Benefits
    • Highlights of the CARES Act
    • Recent FFCRA Legislation – New Webinar
    • Promote Balance and Avoid Burnout While Working from Home
    • Coronavirus & Workplace Well-being: Dispelling Panic and Misinformation
    • Employee Benefits Insights

The information presented here is intended to provide a high level overview of critical areas of concern for businesses around coronavirus. Consult your EPIC insurance broker for more in-depth guidance.


General Information on Coronavirus

While the best source for timely information on the coronavirus pandemic remains the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO), EPIC has compiled resources to aid in understanding the impact of the pandemic on employers, their workforces and managing risk.

In addition to the map below, there is an interesting study and interactive model from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation. The study is a state-by-state forecast of health service utilization and deaths due to coronavirus. It projects the day resource use will peak in each U.S. state, and includes hospital bed use, need for intensive care beds, and ventilator use. The model was built using observed death rates from coronavirus and incorporates preventative measures taken by each state.

According to the model, California will reach its peak day on April 26th and it is projected to have enough hospital beds and ICU beds to meet the need of the state. This is in contrast to New York, which is expected to reach its peak in only nine days. It is projected that New York will have a 58,564 bed shortage and 10,352 ICU bed storage.

View the study here: https://covid19.healthdata.org/projections

Source: John Hopkins


Supply Chain and Business Risks

Truck & Delivery Drivers: The Unsung Heroes of the Coronavirus Crisis

We are privileged to provide coverage for numerous transportation and logistics firms. During this challenging time, it is good to remember that, “without our trucks, America will stop,” as Sam Brock reported recently for the TODAY Show. Their job has become even more challenging as restaurants and food stores close across America during the crisis. It is good to remember that nearly everything we buy was brought by a truck or delivery driver. We echo Brock’s sentiment and want to say thank you to the more than 3 million truck drivers and delivery drivers who are working overtime to keep our supply chain moving and who are bringing food and goods to our doorsteps.

Below are a few of the top stories in the transportation and logistics industry.

  1. Trucking Adapts to Spike in Consumer Demand – what does the current spike mean for the industry long term?
  2. Federal Transportation Leaders updated members of the trucking industry on a recent conference call.

Keeping Truckers Rolling: Managing Driver’s License Expirations, Medical Examiner’s Certificates, Drug & Alcohol Testing

Coronavirus is redefining life and work dramatically. In the transportation industry, an important consideration is how to manage driver’s license expirations, medical examiner’s certificates and drug and alcohol testing. Those issues are addressed briefly below.

  1. Driver’s License Expirations

Many State Driver Licensing Agencies (SDLAs) have altered or ceased customer-facing services until further notice. The status of various locations can be verified online by visiting https://www.usa.gov/motor-vehicle-services. Several states have extended license expiration dates so that residents may legally drive and have proof of identity during this emergency period while SDLA centers are closed.

  1. Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) and Medical Qualification Expirations

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) announced guidance to allow SDLAs to avoid downgrading CDLs should medical certification lapse. Since the CDL merged with the Medical Examiner’s Certificate (MEC) in 2014, all CDL drivers are required to self-certify (submit proof of medical qualification) to their SDLA. Failure to self-certify and the expiration of an MEC will result in the downgrade of a CDL to “not certified,” and if a Motor Vehicle Record (MVR) is pulled, it may indicate “DISQ/disqualification”(see below). In this case, the standard protocol should be to prohibit operation of a commercial motor vehicle that requires a CDL until the driver has rectified this with the SDLA.

The FMCSA has stated that “if a State does not change the medical certification status to “not certified” or downgrade a CDL or CLP driver whose MEC has expired during the national emergency related to COVID-19, as required by 49 CFR 383.73(o), FMCSA will not issue a finding or use that action as a basis for determining the State to be in substantial non-compliance. However, the State is expected to promptly bring its CDL and CLP medical certification status and downgrade practices back into conformance as soon as the national emergency ends or when the SDLA resumes normal operations.”

Several states have extended license expiration dates so residents may legally drive and have proof of identity during this emergency period while SDLA centers are closed, but it is prudent to check the driver’s state of licensure to determine the requirements that apply. Drivers should use online services for renewals.

  1. Drug and Alcohol Testing Programs for DOT-Regulated Employers and Employees

Guidance issued on March 23, 2020 by the Office of Drug and Alcohol Policy & Compliance on drug and alcohol testing programs applies to all modes that fall under the Department Of Transportation, including aviation, motor carriers, railroad, mass transit, pipeline and commercial vessels. Employers (and C/TPAs) subject to more than one DOT agency drug and alcohol testing rule may continue to combine covered employees into a single random selection pool.

Read the full notice here. For more information about the above guidance, contact your EPIC broker.

Temporary FFCRA Non-Enforcement

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has issued a new bulletin to its Wage and Hour Division field staff. It advises that staff should observe a temporary non-enforcement period for employer responsibilities under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). This does not delay the FFCRA’s April 1, 2020 effective date, but it should give employers some piece of mind that inadvertent compliance failures in the short-term will not also lead to DOL penalties.

Read the full alert here. For more information or coverage questions, contact your EPIC broker.


Insurance Products & Coverage

P&C Webinar Answers Questions on Property Policies and Claims Filing

EPIC’s Larry Reback, James Dunn and Jacqueline Beaudet discuss important issues on the question of whether or not Property policies provide coverage for losses arising from coronavirus in this insightful, pre-recorded webinar. Questions, including the following, are answered:

  • Does my Property policy cover physical damage to insured property?
  • What about Business Income, Extra Expense, Civil Authority and Ingress/Egress?
  • Should I file a claim now?
  • How do I file a claim and what information should be included?
  • What kind of response can be expected from insurers?
  • How are state and federal governments responding to the pandemic?

EPIC colleagues share available resources and how EPIC can help. Watch now.

Will Pressure From Lawmakers Change Outcomes of Insurance Claims?

Pressure is on insurers to provide coverage for Business Interruption claims arising from the coronavirus pandemic. In Britain, lawmakers asked the Association of British Insurers (ABI) to prove they are treating their customers fairly. In particular, lawmakers are focusing on whether insurers have stopped offering coverage or changed the terms of existing policies and want to know how much money has been paid out under Business Interruption policies.

In Croatia, where residents are dealing with the double shock of an earthquake during the coronavirus crisis, the head financial services regulator is telling insurance companies to stop paying dividends in order to secure liquidity in the country’s financial system. Croatia’s central bank took a similar step last week to ensure the stability of insurance and financial markets.

Here at home, a bipartisan group of 18 congressional members are asking Property and Casualty insurers to pay Business Interruption claims caused by coronavirus, even when customers’ policies do not afford coverage for such risk. Four industry groups (the APCIA, NAMIC, IIABA and CIAB) responded by rejecting the request and stating that they are helping customers in other ways.

A critical question at hand is whether states can legislate the availability of Business Interruption coverage.

State regulators recognize that there are going to be a myriad of coverage issues coming out of this pandemic and that many policies will contain a virus exclusion. That realization is leading to legislative action.

Legislation on this topic has been introduced in Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York and Ohio, and more states are expected to follow suit. While details will vary by state, the laws essentially say that policies for businesses with 100 employees or less should be construed to include as a covered peril business interruption due to a global pandemic or virus transmission.

Therefore, the laws would compel insurance companies to pay Business Interruption claims despite the existence of a virus exclusion in the policies.

These efforts are being met with resistance from carriers for a few reasons. First, insurance policies are contracts. A state’s attempt to write a clause into or out of a contract will be met with a constitutional challenge. Secondly, insurance companies did not factor a pandemic of this scale into their rates and being forced to pay Business Insurance claims where they did not price for it, and where they specifically excluded it, would threaten their solvency.

While more states are expected to introduce legislation, significant challenges are expected in getting them passed. Additional regulatory concerns are addressed in EPIC’s webinar, “Property Questions Addressed: Coverage, Claims & Regulatory Updates,” which is available online here and referenced above.


HR & Employee Benefits Insights

Highlights of the CARES Act

On March 27, the President signed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act into law. The stimulus package includes over $2 trillion in spending and tax relief. The largest emergency economic stimulus package ever passed, the CARES Act aims to help individuals and businesses deal with the severe financial effects of the pandemic. Among other things, it:

  • Expands telehealth services
  • Provides $100 billion in grants for hospitals and health providers
  • Temporarily suspends Medicare’s two percent sequestration cuts
  • Increases Medicare payments for COVID-19 patient care
  • Modernizes regulations that will make it easier to share medical records of people with substance abuse and disorders

The Act includes sweeping provisions related to greatly expanding small business loan programs and clarifies several elements of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) that became law on March 18, 2020.

Highlights of the CARES Act related to unemployment benefits provisions include the following:

  • Creates a temporary Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program through December 31, 2020 to provide payment to those not traditionally eligible for unemployment benefits (self-employed, independent contractors, those with limited work history, and others) who are unable to work as a direct result of the coronavirus public health emergency.
  • Provides an additional $600 per week payment to each recipient of unemployment insurance or Pandemic Unemployment Assistance for up to four months.
  • Provides funding to pay the cost of the first week of unemployment benefits through December 31, 2020 for states that choose to pay recipients as soon as they become unemployed instead of waiting one week before the individual is eligible to receive benefits.
  • Provides an additional 13 weeks of unemployment benefits through December 31, 2020 to help those who remain unemployed after weeks of state unemployment benefits are no longer available.
  • Provides funding to support “short-time compensation” programs, where employers reduce employee hours instead of laying off workers and the employees with reduced hours receive a pro-rated unemployment benefit. This provision would pay 100 percent of the costs they incur in providing this short-time compensation through December 31, 2020.
  • Provides grants and start-up costs for states to develop short time compensation programs.

The new law raises dozens of questions, and there will be much guidance in the days and weeks ahead that will provide details as to how certain aspects of the law will work. EPIC has prepared a compliance alert on some of the provisions of the Act that pertain to group health and other benefit plans and programs.

Click here to read the alert. For guidance on how any of the above provisions or other aspects of the CARES Act may affect your business, consult your EPIC broker.

Recent FFCRA Legislation – New Webinar

EPIC’s National Director of Employee Benefits Compliance Services, Carl Pilger, moderates a discussion on the FFCRA (Families First Coronavirus Response Act) with Fisher Phillips, labor and employment attorneys. The webinar covers questions employers have regarding workforce issues including furloughs, lay-offs and closings; unemployment issues; emergency paid sick leave; expanded FMLA rights; and health plan coverage and continuation. Specifically, it focuses on how the Act impacts employers with 500 or less employees.

Click here to view the recorded webinar and learn more.

Promote Balance, Avoid Burnout While Working from Home

With so many employees now working remotely, many workers are scrambling to lean in to their ‘new normal.’ Employers everywhere can help their employees by encouraging them to adopt habits that promote a healthy work-life balance.

Great Places to Work suggests the following four ways to promote balance and avoid burnout while working from home and suggests the burden of leadership falls to employers to help their workers succeed in this area.

  1. Embrace flexible scheduling. Understand that employees are different. Some are more productive in the morning, while others are able to get more done in the afternoon or evening. Productivity patterns may be different now that people are working from home. At home, many workers may find they are more productive outside of the standard 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. schedule. Keep an open mind at your organization and trust your employees to manage their time and workload effectively.
  2. Suggest employees designate a workspace. When work and home life collide, balance can be found by creating separation. Especially for employees who are used to going in to an office to work each day, creating a dedicated work area at home can be helpful. Encourage employees to find a space in their home where they can ‘go to’ to begin work and ‘leave’ when they are finished each day.
  3. Start the day the same as before the coronavirus crisis. While working from home has perks like not having to dress up or make a lengthy commute each day, it also has drawbacks. The computer and phone are readily available at all times. Maintaining balance requires some semblance of the schedule workers had before the crisis. Instead of rolling out of bed and beginning work, employers can encourage employees to settle into a morning routine that includes breakfast and other activities they did before they began working from home.
  4. Continue to make wellness a priority. Many employers are great about encouraging healthy habits and wellness programs for employees at work. With work at home for many, now is a more important time than ever to promote wellness. Encourage employees to make time for their personal physical, mental and emotional health. Simple things like walks or online fitness workouts can help employees regain the balance they had in the office.

During crises, one of the most important things great employers can do is to lead. Demonstrate leadership in these uncertain times by encouraging employees to adopt practices that will help them achieve a healthy work-life balance at home.

Coronavirus & Workplace Well-being: Dispelling Panic and Misinformation

Wondering how to handle the daily bombardment of coronavirus-related information? EPIC’s Craig Schmidt shares insight into how to tell fact from fiction when consuming news and information about coronavirus in his recent post on the EPIC blog.

Click here to read Craig’s tips.

Employee Benefits Insights

EPIC’s employee benefits leaders have written several insightful articles on matters related to coronavirus and employee benefits, all of which are available on EPIC’s website. Those articles include:

Conclusion

Our understanding of coronavirus and its impact around the world continues to evolve at a rapid pace. This newsletter briefly touches on issues that businesses may want to consider as they approach their response to novel coronavirus. More topics will be considered in future issues as our understanding of the virus and its impact continues to evolve. Please reach out to your EPIC broker for more information.

For all of EPIC’s coronavirus coverage, visit epicbrokers.com/coronavirus 

Disclaimer: This has been provided as an informational resource for EPIC clients and business partners. It is intended to provide general guidance on potential exposures and is not intended to provide medical advice or address medical concerns or specific risk circumstances. Due to the dynamic nature of infectious diseases, EPIC cannot be held liable for the guidance provided. We strongly encourage readers to seek additional safety, medical and epidemiological information from credible sources such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization. Regarding insurance coverage questions, whether coverage applies or a policy will respond to any risk or circumstance is subject to the specific terms and conditions of the policies and contracts at issue and underwriter determinations. </small class>

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