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IBN President Tom D'Arcangelo Inteviewed of The Voice of Business

Truthfully, there hasn’t been a lot of good news lately. Living through a pandemic can be ...

Why Honesty Is the Best Policy with Your Insurance Agent

Truthfully, there hasn’t been a lot of good news lately. Living through a pandemic can be ...

Phil Richard
Another tax headache ahead: IRS is changing paycheck withholdings, and it'll be a doozy

Truthfully, there hasn’t been a lot of good news lately. Living through a pandemic can be ...

Chrissy Strangie
COVID-19 Insurance Rebates, Credits, & Discounts
Truthfully, there hasn’t been a lot of good news lately. Living through a pandemic can be physically, mentally, and financially exhausted. That’s why when we see things that could help our clients save money, we want to pass along that good news. Given the large number of unemployment claims, businesses operating remotely or at a reduced capacity, and families strapped for income, it comes as welcome news that the insurance companies across the country are offering rebates and discounts. Here are a few local carriers that are offering rebates or credits.

Plymouth Rock Assurance

Plymouth Rock is pleased to share that a COVID-19 relief credit amount for auto customers is now available to view in Agent Web and eServices. They have prepared a frequently asked questions document to help you understand the application of relief credits. In addition to credits, Plymouth Rock also extended the suspension of cancellation of insurance due to many clients having financial difficulties during this time. They have published all of their latest COVID-19 updates to the Plymouth Rock COVID-19 Independent Agent Message Center.

car crash

Safety Insurance

Safety Insurance has announced the Safety Personal Auto Relief Credit. Any Safety Insurance personal auto policyholder that has a policy in effect as of April 1st will receive a 15% credit off their premium for the months of April and May. They have also rescinded cancellation notices as of March 23, 2020. This includes all non-payment cancellations. Along with this, they have waived all late and NSF fees. In addition, clients who now find that they are using their personal vehicles to deliver food or in some other way due to a change in business operations during this time will be covered in those policies as well. In order to help local charitable organizations and frontline workers, Safety Insurance is providing financial support to: Massachusetts COVID -19 Relief Fund, the Boston Resiliency FundProject Bread, and Healthcare Heroes to benefit the Massachusetts General Emergency Response Fund.

car fire

MAPFRE Insurance

MAPFRE is proud to announce the MAPFRE Insurance Staying Home Refund in order to ease some of the financial burden facing many of their customers. The MAPFRE Insurance Staying Home Refund will return 15% of April and May premium to their voluntary personal auto policyholders in Massachusetts, a total of over $30 million. On average, most policyholders will receive a premium credit of approximately $40. Further details will be available on their website at http://mapfreinsuranceblog.com/covid-19-updates/.

Arbella Insurance Group

Arbella has publicly announced the Arbella “Here. For Good.® Give Back Program,” which will provide premium credits to personal auto customers. The “Here. For Good. Give Back Program” will provide Arbella private passenger auto customers with a credit equal to 20% of their auto premium for three months, April, May, and June 2020. The savings will result in an estimated average of $60 per vehicle, and customers with multiple vehicles on their policy could see significant savings. Subject to approval by state regulators, Arbella customers can expect a credit to be applied to their bill within the next 60 days. Customers do not need to take any action to receive the credit. If the policyholder has paid in full, they will be mailed a check. A policyholder must be an active customer at the time the refund is issued.

Vermont Mutual Insurance

As of May 1, 2020 Vermont Mutual Insurance began mailing letters to Personal Auto customers advising them if they qualified for a 20% payback equivalent for their auto premium for three months. Not only are they offering this rebate but they are offering customers the option of collecting the rebate themselves or taking the money and donating it to a charity such as Feeding America, United Way, Meals on Wheels, or the Salvation Army. For more information on this rebate and the opportunity to donate to these charities that are directly helping communities impacted by COVID-19 see this link. Don’t see your carrier listed here? Contact our agents to see what rebates or discounts your carrier may be offering.
Phil Richard
Business Liability Insurance in the Age of COVID-19
Since mid-March, the state of Massachusetts and surrounding states have been on quarantine lockdown. This means that businesses have been shuttered or have shifted to working remotely unless they are classified as essential. It also means that millions of employees have been furloughed or laid off due to this global health crisis. As of last count, 30 million people have lost their jobs and filed for unemployment benefits. What does all of this mean for business owners? Will they file for bankruptcy, take loans to stay afloat, rely on government stimulus programs to help until things get back to “normal?” The answer will be different for each business depending upon the number of employees, the nature of their work, and demand for their type of business going forward. A few things will be the same for all business owners as we navigate the reopening process across the region – the need for business liability insurance or commercial liability coverage. One major question that owners will need to consider will be “what kind of business liability insurance will be needed to protect against employee illness, rehiring litigation, and potential discrimination that could occur when owners are faced with decisions on who to rehire and who will remain unemployed?

person working at a table

Workers’ Compensation Issues

According to SRHM, an online site dedicated to Human Resource news, trends, and analysis, states that there are special circumstances at play when dealing with workers comp for employees out sick with complications due to the coronavirus. “Normally, when it comes to workplace illnesses, most state statutes only pay out benefits if the disease in question is occupational in nature.” This is to say that communicable and contagious diseases are generally excluded from workers’ compensation policies. However, coverage may be triggered if the illness arose due to or in the course of the worker’s employment. In general, these scenarios are examined on a case-by-case basis, but could include instances when: a health care worker contracts COVID-19 at the hospital where he or she works, an airline employee contracts COVID-19 from a passenger, or a hospitality worker contracts COVID-19, which is later linked to a large event at which the person worked. We advise that you check with your business insurance agent to find out where you stand on coverage prior to opening so that you will be covered should your employees contract the virus.

stepping on a bana peel

Liability Concerns

In addition to workers’ comp concerns, business leaders will want to investigate liability issues that may be connected to the coronavirus outbreak within your office or building. COVID-19 raises a number of liability concerns, particularly if guests, customers, clients, or employees allege they became sick due to a business’s negligence. For example, unsanitary practices, lack of protective equipment, and not following guidelines set forth by the state and local municipalities regarding workplace conditions. When it comes to these concerns, it’s important to confirm your liability insurance with your agent/carrier. General liability insurance, sometimes referred to as commercial liability insurance, protects your business from financial loss should you be liable for property damage or personal and advertising injury caused by your services, business operations or employees. In regard to COVID-19 specifically, general liability policies should provide coverage and allow you to defend claims. There may also be questions of discrimination when it comes time for business owners to choose who to bring back to work and who will remain on unemployment until business revenues rebound. Where do you stand in regard to your liability coverage in the age of COVID-19? Check with our agents to find out what coverage you have and what vulnerabilities there may be as we begin reopening in our area.
Phil Richard
Few Black-owned businesses get PPP loans
MIDDLETON — As one of the more than 700 local businesses that received loans from the Paycheck Protection Program, The Goddard School of Middleton had plenty of company. But in another respect, the preschool owned by the husband-and-wife team of Mark Anthony Hunter and Johann Hunter stood out from the crowd. Of the 723 businesses that received loans in the 12 communities covered by The Salem News, The Goddard School is one of only seven owned by minorities and one of only three owned by Blacks. The low-interest loans were made available through the federal government’s CARES Act and are designed to help small businesses cover payroll and other costs during the coronavirus pandemic. The loans can be forgiven if the money is used in accordance with the program. The Hunters said they received a loan in part because they have a good relationship with their bank. But they said many minority-owned businesses don’t have those same relationships and are being left behind in the competition for the PPP loans. “If you’re a minority-owned business and you don’t have a loan with a bank, you’re going to be left out of that conversation,” Mark Hunter said. The Hunters, who live in Danvers, bought The Goddard School of Middleton in 2016. The school is part of the Goddard franchise and serves children from ages 6 weeks to 6 years old. The school was closed from March 19 to June 29 due to the pandemic. The Hunters said the PPP loan enabled them to retain some of their teachers during the shutdown so they could work with students through Zoom. “Particularly with our older students, we wanted to make sure from an emotional/social standpoint they were still having connections with their fellow students,” Mark Hunter said. “For the younger kids, even the babies, we did Zoom one or two days a week and made sure they saw their teachers’ faces to make the transition back easier.” The loan was for between $150,000 and $350,000, according to the federal government, which provided only ranges rather than exact amounts. The Hunters said the money has also helped with costs such as rent and utilities. The Hunters got their loan through TD Bank. They said they were helped by the fact that the Goddard franchise had originally introduced them to the bank. But they said many Black owners don’t have relationships with banks and have trouble getting start-up loans and have to rely on their own savings or borrow from friends and family to get their businesses going. “One of the things we’ve noticed is that access to capital for people of color when it comes to starting their own businesses has already been a challenge,” Mark Hunter said. “When the PPP loans became available, banks became flooded with applicants. It’s understandable that a bank would choose to focus on their customers first with all this volume.” A review of the Paycheck Protection Program by the Small Business Administration’s Office of Inspector General said minority-owned, women-owned and rural businesses “may not have received the loans as intended” because the SBA failed to provide guidance to lenders about prioritizing borrowers in under-served markets. The Hunters recently joined a conference call set up by Karim Hill, president and CEO of the New England Business Association, to talk with Sen. Ed Markey about the lack of access to PPP loans for minority-owned businesses. Hill said the PPP program is well intended but the execution is “really poor when it comes to Black and brown individuals.” He said one possible solution is for the government to distribute the money as grants through nonprofits, rather than as loans through banks. “You have to take away the idea of it being a loan,” Hill said. “Loan underwriting criteria is what’s holding back Black and brown business owners.” Johann Hunter said she and her husband, who have two children ages 4 and 7, are active in the local community and have created lots of allies. Last year the school hosted a touch-a-truck event that drew 800 people. “Everyone knows us,” she said. “When you serve a population with a lot of young people you create a lot of relationships.” Mark Hunter said there aren’t a lot of minority-owned businesses in the groups that they have joined, such as the Middleton Board of Trade, Innovative Business Networking, and Greater Beverly Chamber of Commerce. So it is unclear how many minority businesses in the area actually applied for PPP loans. “The question is, how can we encourage more folks to get into entrepreneurship and take advantage of all the benefits entrepreneurship can give you?” he said.
Staff writer Paul Leighton can be reached at 978-338-2535 or pleighton@salemnews.com. Staff writer Dustin Luca contributed to this story.
Article originally appeared at https://www.salemnews.com/news/local_news/few-black-owned-businesses-get-ppp-loans/article_764ff682-9ce9-529f-a94a-9a38ecdda75d.html
How to Network When There Are No Networking Events
Alisa Cohn & Dorie Clark - Harvard Business Review
We all know the typical ways to network: by attending industry mixers, business dinners, and conferences. But of course none of those have been possible over the past few months, with so much of the world in quarantine. And even as various regions start to open up, large gatherings will be slow to come back, and long-distance travel will be limited. How should you be making new professional connections during this time? And how can you strengthen relationships inside your company when many people are still working remotely? As executive coaches who work with leaders across the globe, we’ve spent years helping clients learn to build relationships virtually. As in the past, it’s still useful to deepen existing relationships and cultivate new ones by engaging on LinkedIn or other social media platforms. But in this unique time, we’ve identified several other strategies you can use to create connections. Here are three to consider.

Turn canceled conferences into private networking opportunities.

Since the pandemic began, many conferences and other large gatherings have been canceled, but even in their absence, you can use them as a way to meet people. Take a look at the conferences scheduled for earlier in the year along with those that would have been coming up. Identify participants who were supposed to attend or speak or who came in prior years. (If you don’t have the list, you can often email conference organizers and ask for it.) Choose five to 10 people you’d like to connect with, and find something you have in common that might make them interested in meeting you (for instance, you’re both involved in robotics research, or you’re alumni of the same university). You can email them or send a message on LinkedIn saying something like, “We were both planning to attend [conference] this year. I had been hoping to meet you there, because I saw that we’re both involved in robotics research and I thought it might be interesting to chat. Since the event was canceled and we’re all grounded for the moment, I thought I’d reach out virtually instead. Let me know if you’d like to meet for a coffee over Zoom.” One of Alisa’s clients, the CEO of a media company, employed this strategy. After a major conference he was planning to attend got canceled, he reached out to some of the people he had wanted to meet there and convened a virtual cocktail party. He developed relationships with interesting new contacts and was invited to speak at a future event.

Rethink geographic boundaries.

Before the world went remote, most professionals’ standard networking impulse was to focus on the people around them. We experienced this ourselves as hosts of regular dinner gatherings in New York City. When creating guest lists, we’d think about local colleagues and would tell out-of-town contacts to “let us know when you’re going to be in New York.” Now those boundaries have receded, and as we’ve shifted to virtual cocktail gatherings, we’ve realized that we’re free to invite people from around the world with whom we wouldn’t have previously been able to connect. During one recent Zoom networking event we brought together colleagues from Boston, New York, Minneapolis, San Francisco, and Austin. We’ve noticed that our corporate coaching clients are applying the same principles and similarly taking a more expansive view. In the past, they might not have invited colleagues from different geographic regions to participate in a meeting if everyone else attending was in the same office. Now that so many of us are remote, they’re more comfortable inviting colleagues regardless of where they’re located.

Invite senior leaders to your online working group meetings.

The current crisis has raised a host of new issues for business leaders to consider, whether it’s the future of your industry, how your company is responding to particular challenges (from supply chain to marketing to employee engagement), or the future of global work. This presents a unique opportunity for you to proactively convene an informal working group to discuss these issues. In some corporate cultures, you can simply invite a few people and have it grow from there. In others, it may be important to check in with your manager first. After gathering a group of peers a few times and establishing that the conversations are valuable, you can, where appropriate in your corporate culture, reach out to senior leaders and invite them to join a session, as either a participant or a guest speaker. A drop-by from a high-level leader may have been difficult, if not impossible, under normal circumstances — but with everyone working virtually (and the leader not traveling), a 15-minute appearance is often surprisingly easy to facilitate. One of Alisa’s clients is the CHRO of the U.S. division of a Fortune 500 company. In the early days of the pandemic, she took the initiative to convene a regular call with her peers in other geographies. As the crisis has played out, she has invited multiple company leaders, including the global CEO, to take part. That got her onto his radar, and he now calls her personally to discuss how the various regions are doing. Even though networking events have been canceled, there are many ways for you to build professional relationships. By employing these three strategies, you’ll emerge even stronger once in-person events start up again.