Federal “Families First Act” Should Relieve Pressure on PFL Claims Amidst COVID-19 Pandemic

In an attempt to keep the economy moving and provide Americans with the financial relief they need during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Federal government has introduced the “Families First Coronavirus Response Act.”

Beginning April 2, this act provides emergency paid sick leave benefits to employees unable to work for a variety of reasons. Employees may be eligible for paid leave if they are unable to work because they are:

  • In quarantine or isolation as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic
  • Exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 and in quarantine
  • Caring for someone in quarantine or isolation as a result of COVID-19
  • Have children in schools or daycare that have closed because of the pandemic

Employers with fewer than 500 employees must provide two weeks’ worth of paid sick leave. Employers will receive tax credits to offset these costs, hopefully minimizing the financial impact on their business.

Employees are also entitled to up to 80 hours of paid sick time at 2/3 the regular rate of pay, and an additional 10 weeks of paid family leave if the employee is unable to work because they need to care for a child whose school or childcare provider is closed for reasons related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

It’s important to note that this paid leave coverage is from the federal government and is not related to NYS PFL.

The legislation also ensures that employees do not have to use any other paid time off in lieu of federal paid leave benefits. Employers also cannot mandate that employees find replacement workers.

NYS PFL Claims in Light of Coronavirus Pandemic

Until April 2 when Families First goes into action, New York State has stepped in to help employees with COVID-19 Emergency Paid Sick Leave, compensated in many cases through New York State DBL and PFL benefits. To help employees stay afloat during this challenging time, the state has waived the five-day waiting period before PFL benefits kick in.

Employers with fewer than 10 workers and less than $1 million in annual net income will still rely on DBL and PFL benefits for their employees, paid concurrently for a combined $2,884.62.

Those with 10 or fewer employees but net revenue exceeding $1 million, or employers with 11 to 99 employees must provide workers with at least 5 days paid sick leave, not counting any PTO they have accrued in the past. After that, employees can make a concurrent PFL / DBL claim for paid leave from Day 6 onward.

Businesses with 100+ employees and public employers are fully responsible for full salary continuation for a minimum of 14 days.

PFL programs only pay out for the intended duration of the quarantine period, which is 14 days. However, if the employee has not exhausted their paid leave from New York State by April 2, those benefits will end regardless. Employees will have to file a federal claim to begin collecting benefits again, this time under the Families First Act. Benefits under the Families First Act apply to companies with fewer than 500 employees.

Stimulus for Business Owners During the Pandemic

It is not easy balancing the economic well-being of our nation with the health and safety of our residents. It’s a challenge many business owners grapple with, as well, during this trying time.

In addition to lowering the federal interest rate, the U.S. government has introduced – or is in the process of introducing — legislation that will help small and large businesses stay afloat while we fight the pandemic with social distancing and isolation.

Last week, the Federal Reserve introduced the Money Market Mutual Fund Liquidity Facility, a program that lends money to banks to purchase assets from money market funds. Lending will not affect bank capital requirements, according to finance site Investopedia.

The government also introduced the Term Asset-Backed Security Loan Facility (TALF), enabling the purchase of asset-backed securities backed by auto loans, student loans, and small business loans to unfreeze credit and help stabilize the economy throughout the pandemic and during the economic recovery period afterwards. These measures will run until September 30, 2020, unless they are extended at that time.

The Fed is also working on a Main Street Business Lending Program. We will reveal details as they become available.

Ultimately, avenues will be available to keep large and small businesses afloat and give them access to the funds they need through loans and tax credits. Here at DBL Center, we will do our best to keep you apprised of changing legislation as it pertains to our brokers and their customers.

Stay safe, stay healthy, and know that the DBL Center is here, as always, to serve as your back-office staff as we get through these trying times together – remotely.


Brokers’ Coronavirus Questions about Short Term Disability, Answered

In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, business owners in New York and New Jersey may be wondering if short-term disability insurance will cover their absence from work if they are diagnosed with the virus and must stay home from work.

They might also wonder if they can make a disability claim if they have not been diagnosed with the virus but were placed under a precautionary quarantine.

Finally, with schools closing across the country, they might wonder if they can make a Paid Family Leave (PFL) claim to stay home and care for school-age children if they don’t have other childcare arrangements.

These are dilemmas many Americans are facing today. DBL Center is working hard to provide our brokers with the answers they need to give their clients’ guidance about what does, and what does not, constitute a short-term disability claim when it comes to the coronavirus pandemic.

The policies of our carriers do vary, but you can always reach out to one of our team if you or your clients have urgent questions. You can reach us 24/7 through the new chat feature on our website and we will get back to you as soon as possible.

Coronavirus and Short Term Disability Policies: What You Need To Know

In short, a coronavirus diagnosis or a quarantine related to the pandemic does not constitute automatic approval of a short-term disability claim in New York or New Jersey. Some policies from certain carriers, however, may carry quarantine provisions.

Short-term and long-term disability policies typically do not include treatment for a cold or the flu under short-term disability coverage. If an employee is sick and unable to work due to COVID-19, these claims will be determined on a case by case basis, depending on the severity and length of the illness. In some situations, cases requiring hospitalization may qualify for short-term disability in New York and New Jersey.

Claims submitted with a diagnosis of Coronavirus will be evaluated based on all applicable contract provisions. The insured will need to provide proof that they are under the care of a Health Care Provider that can certify the disability and unable to perform their job duties either in the work place or at home via remote access.

PFL and the Coronavirus

Similarly, covered employees cannot make PFL claims to care for children over a year old who are home from school because the school closed as a precautionary measure. Since the virus doesn’t seem to be affecting children severely, it would be unusual for a parent or guardian to require a PFL claim to care for a child who is ill from the virus, unless the child is immune compromised. Again, that would be decided on a individual basis depending on the length and severity of the illness, as with any cold or the flu.

Working from Home During the COVID-19 Pandemic

DBL Center understands that, at this time, many of our brokers may be working from home to limit the spread of the virus. Here at DBL Center, we will remain open and are doing everything to maintain the clean and sanitary conditions or our workplace and protect our employees.

Fortunately, DBL Center is also set up to work remotely. We have employees in New York and New Jersey offices who frequently connect virtually, and our cloud-based systems transition well to a work-at-home environment.

Our brokers can even Bind DBL Over 50 lives right from any internet-enabled computer, whether at home or in the office. Our exclusive broker Dashboard gives our brokers access to all their policies and preferred carriers from any internet-enabled device, as well.

Throughout the pandemic and after, the DBL Center will continue to be your back-office staff, answer any questions related to disability coverage and the coronavirus pandemic, and help you bind DBL policies from home.

 


On the Mic with Mike: Selena Kutschera Talks About PFL, DBL and the Benefits of the Broker Dashboard

Working with the top insurance wholesaler in NY gives Selena a chance to make a difference for brokers

Selena Kutschera, DBL Center’s Director of DBL and TDB never actually applied to work at DBL Center. She joined the family when DBL Center acquired competitor Combined DBL, a competitive insurance wholesaler in NY, in 2014.

How she got the job at Combined DBL, straight out of college with no insurance industry experience, is quite a story.

“I found the job listing in the newspaper,” she tells DBL Center owner and president Michael Cohen. “I begged for an interview, but they had already closed out their interviews because they knew who they were going to hire.”

Kutschera didn’t stop pushing for the interview, however, and, ultimately, got the job. Through her hard work and perseverance, she’s become a leader in wholesale TDB and DBL sales.

It was this tenacity that impressed DBL Center founder David Cohen at the time of the acquisition. “That was the kind of personality my father was looking for,” Michael Cohen recalls. “I remember him saying, ‘I don’t know if we’ll get the deal, but Selena will join us.’ We did make the deal and here we are, five years later.”

Read on to learn how Selena Kutschera is helping DBL Center brokers manage the challenges of PFL and prepare for new opportunities in New Jersey.

Then watch the video to find out Selena’s (second) favorite word, what musician she’s not-so-secretly obsessed with, and what she’d be doing if she wasn’t serving the DBL and TDB insurance needs at one of the top insurance wholesalers in NY.

Michael Cohen: What’s the most exciting thing that we’ve done as a team, in your opinion, since the acquisition?
Selena: The program – the Broker Dashboard. Just coming together and building something, changing the game.

Michael: How has that been an upside for you?
Selena: We can track now. We can track the business. We can track what we’ve lost, what we’ve gained, the brokers, who’s writing, who’s not writing. It just makes it easier.

Michael: Can you describe the process we use when we get together and track retention and new business?
Selena: When we look at our book through the Broker Dashboard, we look at what we can keep out of what’s lost. Our cancellations. We know DBL’s a moving target. Your DBL’s come on, they come off, there are non-pays all the time. That’s the first thing we address, the non-pays. Can we get them reinstated? If we can, that puts business back into the books.

Any time coverage is replaced, we want to find out why it was replaced. Was it something we lost? Did the broker lose it? Did they replace it on us, and why did they replace it? We have to analyze what happened—and why—to get that business back.

Michael: What has the feedback been from the brokers since we implemented the dashboard?
Selena: They’re surprised about their non-pays and what’s cancelled and what’s not.

Michael: Everyone thought Paid Family Leave was going to be a home run, but in the beginning, it wasn’t. Why? And what have you been doing to help overcome those challenges?
Selena: It just added another layer of tracking. Who doesn’t want to pay their PFL [rider]? Who didn’t think they needed Paid Family Leave? They pay the DBL; they don’t pay the PFL. That’s really been the issue. Now, we’re getting the complaints that the insured made the payment, but they only paid a portion of it, or they shortchanged it. So now it’s a matter of them understanding how to pay the bills.

Mike: What do you feel is the biggest dilemma in the overall statutory environment? You’re in the trenches and you’re also involved in commissions. What’s an issue for us that’s outside of our control as a wholesale insurance broker in NY?
Selena: I guess what’s outside of our control is just the insureds making payments. That’s out of our control as an insurance wholesaler in NY. Is the $170 [weekly] benefit in New York State for disability low? Absolutely.

What I do find is some employers want to buy up and some employers don’t want to hear it. I agree with the buying up because the reality is the Paid Family Leave is for somebody else—to take care of a baby, child, or family member—and the disability is for yourself. And if you need to go out on disability, why do you need to go out at a $170, when the PFL benefit is $750 and change? It’s $752 [for 2019].

Mike: Are you excited about what’s happening in Jersey? Explain that.
Selena: Absolutely! Jersey just lifted its signature requirement—there’s no more signature requirement to move to a private carrier. So, it makes it easier for us to write this product, as 98% of it sits with the state right now. And the benefit is going up tremendously.

If you’re shopping for a new insurance wholesaler in NY or NJ or need help writing TDB or DBL, let Selena Kutschera and DBL Center help you. Reach out today.


New York Family Leave Program: Eligible Employees to Receive 60% of Their Average Weekly Wage in 2020

PFL enters its third year with another benefit increase

The Department of Financial Service (DFS), New York, has announced that the benefits under New York’s Paid Family Leave program will be increased to 60% of the average weekly wage for up to 10 weeks of leave beginning January 1, 2020. The new average annual wage will be $72,860, with a maximum weekly benefit of $840.70 per week.

The decision to increase the benefits will stay unless the Superintendent of the DFS announces a delay citing non-compliance with Workers Compensation Law 204(2).

In the first two years of the family leave program, the benefits were 50% and 55% of the average weekly wage of the eligible employees.

About Paid Family Leave in New York

New York’s Paid Family Leave program is the most comprehensive program in its category in the entire country. The program, which began in 2018, allows eligible employees to take time off to address important personal matters and still receive a portion of their salary, which can help alleviate financial concerns.

Employees can use family leave benefits to cover time off during three key events:

  • Attending to the needs of a family member with a serious health condition;
  • Handling personal matters when a family member is called to active duty in the US Armed Forces
  • Bonding with a new child.

PFL Premiums at a Glance

The premium rate for the family leave benefits is decided by the Superintendent of DFS as stated under Insurance Law 4235(n)(1), which also mentions that these benefits need to be community rated.

The family leave program must offer similar benefits to every eligible employee, irrespective of their geographical location, age, gender, or other demographic factors.

The premium rate is the percentage of an employee’s wage. The Superintendent has established that the premium rate for the coverage starting January 1, 2020, will be 0.270% of an employee’s wages each pay period and shall not exceed a maximum annual employee contribution of $196.72. The Superintendent establishes the maximum amount that an employer is authorized to collect from employees for PFL.

PFL Represents Growing Opportunities for Brokers

When PFL was first introduced in 2018, only 27 insurers offered the program. Today, 29 insurers write PFL as a rider to DBL policies. DFS believes there will be more insurers joining next year.

All statutory disability insurers are law-bound to offer Family Leave benefits, says DFS. The DFS has also asked all relevant insurers to submit Family Leave Benefits policy forms and rates by October 1, 2019. Insurers can visit the DFS website for more information and to view a PFL checklist, submission instructions, and model rider.

DBL Center Is Here to Help Brokers Earn More with PFL

As a mandatory rider to DBL coverage, PFL represents an additional revenue stream for brokers writing statutory disability in New York.

When brokers talk to their customers about PFL, however, it also opens doors to have a conversation about enriching DBL coverage to provide a generous benefits package and peace-of-mind for all employees, including top level executives, and not just those who fit into the requirements to qualify for PFL.

Let DBL Center help you enrich DBL in New York today.


DBL Center’s Michael Cohen: New Broker Dashboard App Helps Agencies Keep Business

View the full Broker Dashboard video here.

DBL Center’s proprietary Broker Dashboard app enables DBL Center’s New York-based brokers to track renewals, cancellations, revenue, and commissions on NYS DBL policies with a click.

With 250 brokers now using the Broker Dashboard, and interest from insurance carriers to partner and expand the capabilities of the cloud-based software, DBL Center President and CEO Michael Cohen took a few minutes in his Melville, NY office to explore the history, present, and future of Broker Dashboard. He also hinted at even more advanced technology for brokers and insurance carriers on the horizon.

Where did the Broker Dashboard concept come from?

The broker dashboard evolved mainly from my father, David, Cohen, who was the founder of DBL Center. He always shared two mantras with me: “Nickels, dimes and quarters make dollars,” and “It’s not what you earn, it’s what you keep.”

After he passed away nearly two years ago, I decided to look at his tracking mechanisms with his old-school number two pencil and general ledger, take that ideology, and convert it into our own proprietary digital management system. That ultimately evolved into our broker dashboard, which we’re making available to all our sub agents across New York State.

How has the Broker Dashboard helped DBL Center?

It’s helped us in two ways. The first way has been the growth aspect of it. If I go into a broker’s office who is using the Broker Dashboard, their immediate question to me is, “Why don’t I see exhibit A or this specific policy?”

The answer is: “Well, that’s because it’s not an account we service. But if you’d like us to service that account, you can roll it over. We’ll become the servicing general agent. And you’ll then see it under your broker dashboard.”

The second way has been in helping our brokers to keep accounts and monitor their retention, which results in preserving profits for everyone, including the carriers where we are acting as not only a servicing general agent but a bill collector.  Every two weeks we send out a reminder email to track their retention, so they can realize what they’re keeping. This goes back to one of my father’s mantras: “It’s not what you earn, it’s what you keep.”

In what other ways has the Broker Dashboard helped your brokers?

Tracking all their commissions. We are in a nickels and dimes business, and Paid Family Leave has emphasized that point. The Broker Dashboard helps brokers understand the status of all their policies and determines whether a policy is active or cancelled. I’m staying one step ahead of the insurance carriers by letting our brokers know their clients’ status so they can stay on top of non-pays.

Sometimes, if you lose a DBL policy, you might ultimately lose a workers’ comp policy or a major medical policy.  I’m all about helping our brokers retain their book of business through us. We have thousands of brokers and we currently insure 1.7 million lives.

How many sub-producers are currently using the Broker Dashboard?

Two hundred and fifty brokers are currently using the app. It can be three users per agency, and if they want more than that we unlock it and for a nominal fee, they can have up to 50 users. But the average right now has been between three and five users per agency.

What response have you gotten from the insurance carriers about the Broker Dashboard?

Two carriers, specifically, showed interest in wanting to partner with us through doing some technological advancements to the Broker Dashboard. Those talks evolved into a software company my business partner and I started called Net Revenue Tracker (NRT).
If anybody wants to learn more about NRT, we will do a future video and blog post about how NRT works to track retention and revenue through cloud-based software.

 

 

 


Are You Selling DBL Coverage and Ancillary Benefits to Your Customers Who Need It?

Coastal Insurance offers tips to expand your book of business with strategic cross-selling of home insurance, DBL coverage, and ancillary products

By David Clausen, Coastal Insurance

If you’re like most P&C brokers, NYS DBL and NJ TDB insurance aren’t your only niches. Most brokers sell a variety of lines, whether it’s healthcare, business insurance, or personal lines of coverage like home insurance.

But you may not be thinking of ways to cross-sell your lines to expand your book of business and increase your commissions without cold calls or prospecting for new clients.

When you get in the habit of consultative selling, which includes getting to know your customers, their businesses, and additional insurance needs they may have, you’ll discover avenues to increased profits.

Mandatory coverage like workers’ compensation and NYS DBL coverage, along with enriched DBL, provide excellent upsell opportunities. Many business owners don’t realize they need this coverage even if they only have a few employees. Even if they know about statutory DBL coverage, they may not recognize the opportunities available with enriched DBL and ancillary benefits.

As their trusted insurance broker, you can help make sure they are protected from nearly any contingency. Chances are, you are already taking some of these steps. But are you closing the deal?

These tips, garnered from years of experience selling home insurance and other personal and business lines to Long Island-based customers, can help you expand your book of business.

1. Look for opportunities to upsell complementary insurance lines by getting to know your customers.

In Coastal’s niche market of home insurance for high-net-worth homeowners, many of our best clients also own their own businesses. This means they need workers’ compensation insurance and statutory disability coverage in New York State.

Ask your customers, “Who is currently writing your statutory DBL coverage?” to uncover opportunities.

With the introduction of Paid Family Leave as a rider to DBL, they might be looking to shop their policy around, since some carriers have stopped providing DBL.

2. Don’t forget about your customers who hire domestic employees.

Most Coastal customers who aren’t business owners are c-level executives, celebrities, and other high-net-worth individuals who may hire domestic employees to help run their households. A lot of people don’t know that workers’ compensation and NYS DBL coverage is mandatory in New York for full-time domestic employees or for domestic employees who live in your home, even if they don’t work a full 40-hour week.

This includes nannies, au pairs, housekeepers, gardeners, chefs, drivers, personal assistants, and anyone else who works for an individual. Even if people may treat their nannies or housekeepers like family, the State of New York classifies them as domestic workers or residence employees – and they need to be insured as such.

There can be hefty fines for failing to provide the proper insurance coverage for domestic workers, not to mention the liability if an employee gets hurts on the job. Brokers are doing a service to their customers by letting them know what employee coverage is required.

As with any job, providing ancillary benefits to domestic workers can also help improve retention rates and reduce sick time.

3. Discuss the potential for ancillary benefits.

Whether your customers are business owners seeking to hire the best employees, or individuals with a team of domestic help, they may not have considered ancillary benefits as a low-cost way to recruit and retain employees.

Benefits like Group Life, vision, and dental coverage are still highly sought after by workers. In a Harvard Business Review study, 88 percent of employees said they would consider accepting a job with a lower salary if the position had better health, dental, and vision benefits than the job with the higher pay.

Explore these possibilities with your customers, and they will look to you as a trusted business resource rather than just someone selling insurance products.

4. Educate your customers about enriched DBL.

NYS DBL coverage provides a bare minimum to help an employee who is ill or injured (while not on the job). DBL pays out just 50 percent of an employee’s salary up to $170 per week for 26 weeks.
Enriched DBL is a powerful retention tool for middle managers who exceed the maximum payout but may not have private disability insurance or a savings account to help get them through a medical emergency.

With the introduction of Paid Family Leave as a rider to DBL coverage in New York, many employers are looking to enrich DBL benefits in order to provide coverage comparable to PFL for employees who don’t have, or plan to have, families or may want a robust benefits package for themselves.

PFL was the big news in the insurance industry in 2018, but many people still aren’t aware of the policy changes. Stay on the forefront, educate your customers, and they will trust you to write their policies for personal and business insurance.

5. Offer the best rates by bundling coverage.

When you take advantage of The DBL Center’s carrier relationships, you can bundle lines to provide your customers with the best rates for DBL, ancillary benefits, and more.

Why would they go to any other broker if you’ve positioned yourself as a one-stop-shop for their business and personal lines of insurance coverage?