State and federal lawmakers are pushing legislation for small business insurance coverage to cover costs while areas await the okay to reopen from Gov. Tom Wolf and the state health department.
Insurance policies for area businesses could include covering the novel coronavirus under state and federal law.
With many businesses closed across Pennsylvania, state and federal lawmakers want to require business insurers to add COVID-19 to their policies and help businesses cover costs while they wait to reopen.
A business can usually apply for losses from an insurance provider when forced to close for disasters.
Following the SARS outbreak in 2006, many insurance providers included a provision excluding viral and bacterial outbreaks from standard coverage, a news release from state Sen. Steve Santarsiero’s office last week states.
“I have been hearing from small businesses across Bucks County that have had business interruption insurance claims denied because of the exemption for viruses,” said Santarsiero, D-10, of Lower Makefield, said.
“It is vital that during this time we do everything we can to protect our businesses and make sure they are able to receive the insurance support they need,” Santersiero added.
Santarsiero is one of several local lawmakers sponsoring the bill, including Sens. Vincent Hughes, D-10, of Philadelphia and Montgomery counties, and Maria Collett, D-12, of Lower Gwynedd.
SB 1114 as drafted now would allow small businesses to claim up to 100% of estimated lost revenues due to the coronavirus, and large businesses could claim up to 75% of lost revenues.
A business qualifies as a small business if it meets criteria set by the U.S. Business Administration’s criteria, which varies depending on the industry.
Meanwhile, Republican U.S. Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick, of Middletown, is the primary sponsor of legislation that would provide similar provisions on a federal level.
The U.S. House resolution has garnered support from leaders of national business organizations from industries hit hardest by the pandemic, a news release from Fitzpatrick’s office states.
“As government travel restrictions to curb transmission of COVID-19 began to take their toll on the nation’s hotel owners, we expected to rely on our business interruption insurance to help pay our bills and keep our staff employed,” said Jagruti Panwala, chairwoman of the Asian American Hotel Owners Association.
“Unfortunately, so many of us have been told our policies do not cover shutdowns such as those ordered by the government in response to this pandemic,” Panwala added.
The federal bill will require insurers to only exclude coverage for national emergencies if the policyholder explicitly allows the exemption, or if a policy holder fails to pay premiums on their coverage.
As of Tuesday afternoon, both bills are sitting in committees in their respective government chambers.
The federal act would provide “a federal backstop” to help cover the added costs to insurers, the news release adds.
SB 1114 was sent to the state’s Banking & Insurance committee on April 15 and is currently not scheduled for a vote.
The U.S. House resolution introduced on April 14, but no action has been taken on the bill since.