As Benefits Expire, Senate Adjourns Without Congressional Deal on Coronavirus Aid; Identifying

Insurance News for 7/31/2020

As Benefits Expire, Senate Adjourns Without Congressional Deal on Coronavirus Aid

Just one day before a federal jobless benefit was set to expire, the U.S. Congress was no closer on Thursday to a deal extending or replacing the extra $600 per week in payments to tens of millions of Americans thrown out of work by the coronavirus pandemic.

Lacking a deal, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell maneuvered to allow votes next week on a Republican plan to extend the expiring unemployment benefit, but would slash it to $200 a week.

While the measure may be blocked by Democrats, who want to continue the current benefit, it could spur lawmakers and the White House to accelerate negotiations next week toward a compromise.

The Senate adjourned for the weekend and will return Monday, after the unemployment insurance benefit has expired.

President Donald Trump, at a news conference, said that in addition to extending the jobless benefits, he wanted to help extend protection from eviction for renters who have lost their jobs because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Democrats have already proposed extending a moratorium on evictions that expired July 25, but have resisted White House entreaties to do a separate deal on that and the unemployment insurance benefits while leaving other coronavirus relief issues for later.

“We’ll be putting certain things on the table,” Trump, a Republican, told reporters, without giving details.
“We want to get money to people, and it has to be substantial. It’s not their fault what happened. … It’s China’s fault.”

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows were expected to meet with Democratic leaders later on Thursday over how to help the country cope with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Meanwhile, Democrat Joe Biden, the former vice president who is challenging Trump in November’s election, accused McConnell and Trump of risking further economic slowdown by refusing to grant additional federal funds to state and local governments.

“It’s meager support they are offering for schools and local governments,” Biden told the American Federation of Teachers union.

Democrats have been pushing for extending the supplemental jobless benefit as part of a $3 trillion coronavirus aid bill the House of Representatives passed in May, while Republicans want $1 trillion overall. The supplemental benefit for the unemployed proposed by both parties would be on top of state unemployment payments.

The past four days of private talks involving top White House and congressional officials have yielded no tangible results, and Republicans and Democrats spent much of Thursday sparring over their differences.

“Republicans don’t want this aid to expire,” McConnell said.
“But the speaker and the (Senate) Democratic leader say they won’t agree to anything unless the program pays people more to stay home than to work.”

Schumer responded by saying that a “skinny bill” floated by the White House to provide reduced unemployment benefits did not have the votes to pass the House or the Senate. “It’s a stunt,” he said.

Republicans have criticized the $600 weekly supplemental benefit because, combined with state unemployment benefits, some people end up with more money than when they were working.

Congress has already passed aid packages totaling $3 trillion to alleviate the effects of the virus, which has killed 150,000 Americans.

Republicans oppose a Democratic call for nearly $1 trillion to aid state and local governments, while Democrats reject Republican demands to prevent liability lawsuits for businesses and schools as they reopen during the pandemic.

(Reporting by Susan Cornwell and David Morgan in Washington; Additional reporting by Michael Martina in Detroit; Writing by Richard Cowan and Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Scott Malone, Peter Cooney, Tom Brown and Leslie Adler)

Source: Insurance Journal  – 7/31/20 Author: David Morgan and Susan Cornwell

Identifying "hidden risks" for reopening businesses

Businesses reopening after the COVID-19 shutdowns are returning to a vastly different environment than what they were used to. Aside from the well-known risks such as health protocols to avoid the spread of disease, they will have to contend with other risks that may not be as obvious.

Gary Pearce (pictured), chief risk architect at Aclaimant, identified three categories of risk that businesses must be aware of as they begin operating again. The first category, he said, are less-evident sources of high-cost litigation, including litigation with the potential to become a class action.

“This includes lawsuits arising from injury to employees, which may overcome the normal ‘exclusive remedy’ protections of the workers’ compensation system in the event of employer indifference to COVID-19-related risk management,” Pearce said.

“States and municipalities are piling on more mandates related to leave, benefits, and worker protections. Employers need to understand their responsibilities under such regulations in order to avoid getting sued for non-compliance.”

The category also includes wage-hour risk associated with COVID-19-related activity mandates such as daily check-ins, and the blurring of the distinction between work and leisure time caused by expanded remote working.

The next category is human resources and employee relationship issues. According to Pearce, aside from foreseeable issues such as inappropriate testing, disparate impacts in downsizing, or failure to provide reasonable accommodations particular to COVID-19, this can include more subtle matters such as the lost productivity of the disengaged or distracted employee, obsolete job descriptions due to COVID-19-prompted changes in the nature of work, or practice changes that unintentionally bring about a less-diverse candidate pool.

The third category is technology, process, and strategy risk. To identify these risks in light of new activities that have become necessary to manage COVID-19, Pearce advised businesses to ask the following questions:

Are we being as efficient as we can be, or are we putting our organization at a competitive disadvantage?

Is the heightened level of cyber risk, arising from a distributed workforce being managed?

Are we putting technology to use to keep people safe to ensure a consistently high standard of practice, and to promote collaboration?

Have we fully assessed the impact of COVID-19 on the organization’s competitive environment?

The last question is of particular importance, Pearce said, as business strategy tends to be the greatest source of risk for most organizations.

In order to mitigate these risks, Pearce argued that consistency is key.

“The ways in which things can go wrong are many, and has consequences for how risk must be managed,” he said “You could pick a handful of key issues to focus upon, but your main focus needs to be on consistent application and enforcement of enlightened standards across a broad spectrum of business practices throughout the organization. Standardization of practices, consistent enforcement, and securing the tools and technologies to have visibility and insight into these many risk areas are all necessary for effective risk mitigation.”

Furthermore, the lessons learned from COVID-19 must be kept, even after the pandemic has been eradicated.

“Don’t look upon the risk management changes brought about by COVID-19 as either temporary or the ‘new normal.’ These changes are long-lasting and will still be necessary even on that longed-for day when COVID-19 is a mere memory,” he said. “The social environment will keep evolving and new technologies will bring about new risks, so the practice of risk management needs to continuously adapt as well. The only ‘new normal’ will be the necessity of ongoing change.”

Source: Insurance Business America – 7/31/20 Authors: Gabriel Olano

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