Gene Marks


Recent weeks have impacted small businesses around the globe. To slow the spread of COVID-19, governments have mandated social distancing and self-isolation tactics, forcing millions of people to turn to remote working. Some businesses have closed altogether, while others are promoting online sales and eCommerce. If you’re wondering where to turn during these complicated times, we’ve put together a comprehensive state-by-state guide on how to receive aid and keep your business open.

Federal

CARES ACT: The CARES Act passed in late March, which is a $2 trillion emergency relief package to help Americans impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. Importantly, the CARES Act includes Rubio’s Keeping American Workers Paid and Employed Act, a bipartisan small business emergency economic relief plan that provides more than $377 billion for small businesses to meet their payroll and expenses and receive education and assistance.

CARES Act SBA Loan Calculator: NAV has worked to create a calculator to help business owners see how much they qualify for.

FEMA Supply Chain, Delivery of Goods, Business Continuity Support Businesses that are experiencing issues regarding supply chains, delivery of goods, or business continuity should contact the FEMA National Business Emergency Operations Center. This is a 24/7 operation and they can assist in directing the inquiry to the proper contact.

Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program Small business owners in all U.S. states and territories are currently eligible to apply for a low-interest loan due to COVID-19. The SBA will work directly with state Governors to provide targeted, low-interest loans to small businesses and non-profits that have been severely impacted by COVID-19. The SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan program provides small businesses with working capital loans of up to $2 million that can provide vital economic support to small businesses to help overcome the temporary loss of revenue they are experiencing.

Federal Income Tax Filing and Payment Deadline Extension The federal tax return filing deadline is now July 15, 2020. For tax payments of up to $10 million, the IRS has also extended the deadline for both individuals and businesses. Estimated tax payments for 2020 originally due on April 15, 2020, will now be due on July 15, 2020.

Check with your state tax agency to find out if your business has more time to file or more time to pay state and local taxes this year. Several states have already aligned their tax filing and payment dates with the new federal deadline. States also may waive or reduce penalties on late tax payments.

Reimbursement of Medical Leave Costs for SMBs The IRS recently updated information for employers regarding COVID-19-related medical leave.

The Express Bridge Loan Pilot Program allows small businesses who currently have a business relationship with an SBA Express Lender to access up to $25,000 with less paperwork. These loans can provide vital economic support to small businesses to help overcome the temporary loss of revenue and can be a term loan or used to bridge the gap while applying for a direct SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loan. If a small business has an urgent need for cash while waiting for decision and disbursement on Economic Injury Disaster Loan, they may qualify for an SBA Express Disaster Bridge Loan.

SBA Access to Capital provides a number of loan resources for small businesses to utilize when operating their business.

SBA Government Contracting: SBA is focused on assisting with the continuity of operations for small business contracting programs and small businesses with federal contracts.

If a situation occurs that will prevent small businesses with government contracts from successfully performing their contract, they should reach out to their contracting officer and seek to obtain extensions before they receive cure notices or threats of termination. The SBA’s Procurement Center Representatives can assist affected small businesses to engage with their contracting officer.

Use the Procurement Center Representative Directory to connect with the representative nearest you.

The President’s Coronavirus Guidelines for America: 15 Days to Slow the Spread

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers the most up-to-date information on COVID-19. This interim guidance is based on what is currently known.

State and Local

Alabama

ALtogether is a one-stop-shop where Alabamians can ask for help or lend a hand during the COVID-19 crisis. This response effort is designed to connect businesses, nonprofits and people that need help with the right program partners–and to connect program partners with people and resources to help those most in need.

Alaska

Alaska Small Business Development Center COVID-19 Resource Center: The impact of Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) on Alaskan communities and businesses is changing daily. The Alaska SBDC is here to support and prepare small businesses in the days, weeks, and months to come. Here you will find guidance, updates, and resources to help adapt in an unpredictable situation.

Read More Here -> https://sba.thehartford.com/business-management/covid-19-relief-guide/

 

Sunday’s tornadoes in DFW have resulted in an estimated $2B in losses making the event the costliest in North Texas history. Click here for the story.

Wind claims are prone to repair vs replace disputes. The best time to have Insurance Claim Recovery Support LLC public adjusting firm represent your interests is now before a problem arises. We have assisted owners and operators to settle over $100M in Commercial and Multifamily property damage insurance claims fairly and promptly and represent some of the largest real estate organizations in Texas.

AUSTIN, Texas – May 21, 2015 – PRLog — Insurance Claim Recovery Support LLC, a leading licensed public insurance adjusting firm in Austin, Texas urges policyholders dealing with storm damage property in the Counties of Harris, Travis, Brazoria, Montgomery, Fort Bend, Tarrant, Dallas, and Johnson from weather-related events occurring April 16, 2015, through April 19, 2015, to be aware of the following insurance claim essentials:

Texas Department of Insurance (TDI) has declared these events catastrophe for the purpose of claims processing.  Per Texas insurance code 542.059, claim-handling deadlines under this subchapter are extended for an additional 15 days.

TDI Bulletin #B-0014-14 reminds insurers, insurance adjusters, and public insurance adjusters that House Bill 1183, effective September 1, 2013, establishes prohibited conduct of insurance adjusters, public insurance adjusters, and roofing contractors.

Roofers and contractors are prohibited from acting or advertising to adjust claims for any property for which the contractor is providing or may provide roofing services, regardless of whether the contractor holds a license to adjust insurance claims.  A roofer or contractor may not advocate on behalf of a consumer or discuss insurance policy coverages and exclusions. See FAQ regarding unlicensed individuals and entities adjusting claims and TX statute 4102.163.

Consumers are urged to keep the following in mind:
· Texas does not require roofers to be licensed. Be careful of any roofer or association that states they have a roofer license or claims to be a licensing entity.

·       Be wary if a contractor tells you of their experience in settling insurance claims or in dealing with insurance carriers and adjusters. Contractors are expressly prohibited from negotiating your claim with the insurance company and, other than providing and/or explaining an estimate to repair the damages that occurred, they should not be involved in the claim process.

·       Read contracts carefully before signing them. If the fine print says that you are authorizing the contractor to deal with the insurance company on your behalf, you can assume that the contractor is ignoring the requirements of the law above.

·       Do not sign contracts that assign all or a portion of an unsettled claim to the contractor and do not sign contracts that do not have a stated price for doing the work. Often we see contracts where the work will be done for “insurance proceeds recovered.” Many jurisdictions have found these contracts to be invalid because they do not state the exact price that is to be paid.

·       Do not sign contracts that require you to pay a contractor a percentage of the amount recovered in the claim if either party decides to cancel the contract. This is often a sign that the contractor plans to get involved in the negotiation of the claim in violation of Texas law.

·       Don’t become a victim of fraud schemes such as “Roofing deductible assistance programs.” See BBB investigation of Roofing Deductible Schemes.

Contractors are Vendors for the insured.  Public Adjusters are Agents for the insured who act solely on behalf of a homeowner or commercial building owner to negotiate the settlement of an insurance claim in a non-litigious manner.

Only Public Adjusters are licensed by the state department of insurance to advocate for the policyholder in negotiating first-party insurance claims.  A Public Adjuster settles claims for loss or damage under any policy of insurance covering real or personal property, usually for a fraction of the time and expense of an attorney. If you find yourself in a dispute with your insurance company, we encourage consumers to contact a Public Adjuster.

TDI investigates written complaints of persons (including but not limited to an individual, corporation, association, or other legal entity engaged in the business of insurance, including an agent, broker, adjuster per 541.002) violating the Insurance Code. Violating Insurance Code Chapters 4101 and 4102 may result in criminal penalties and license denial, suspension, revocation or fines.

While there are a number of good and ethical contractors, we encourage you to know your rights. Download Texas Consumer Bill of Rights for Homeowners.

The opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the firm, its clients, or any of its or their respective affiliates. This article is for general information purposes and is not intended to be and should not be taken as legal advice.

In September of 2017, a Texas insurance bill was passed into law which is a major loss for Texas property owners. House Bill 1774 further enables bad faith insurance companies to abuse policyholders deploying unfair claim handling practices that force consumers to sue insurers for underpaying, delaying or wrongfully denying “force of nature” related insurance claims. The bill is an Insurer-friendly attempt to make it harder for Policyholders to bring and litigate force of nature-related property claims.

The media and insurance company lobbyists tout the bill will put an end to frivolous lawsuits surrounding weather disasters such as hailstorms and lower premiums by de-incentivizing trial lawyers gaming the system to get massive attorney’s fees. However, the new law reaches far beyond hail related occurrences, it encompasses other nature-related events including property damage covered for earthquake, wildfire, flood, tornadoes, lightning, hurricane, wind, snowstorm, or rainstorm.

HB 1774 offers little to no real mechanisms to curb lawsuits or hold insurer’s accountable for bad faith insurance claim handling acts which force many policyholders to file lawsuits even after making reasonable efforts to settle a claim with the assistance of a licensed public insurance adjuster. The legislation limits the ability of property owners to hold insurers accountable for underpaid claims or poorly handled claims investigations.

The bill actually cuts penalties for insurers sued for underpaying, delaying or wrongfully denying storm claims, including wind and hail damage, while making it harder for those suing to collect attorneys’ fees.

HB 1774 will force a majority of claim cases into federal court, which typically takes twice as long to receive justice, adds cost and uncertainty for property owners who attempt to legally challenge insurers’ decisions.

Many insurance companies pay property owners as little and as late as possible and drag the process out as long as they can. Texans can expect more delays and denials from insurers and less accountability. The harmful effect of this new law for homeowners, businesses, churches, and schools will be state-wide.

It is also noteworthy that HB 1774 passed in the absence of a Commissioner at the Texas Department of Insurance who regulates the insurance industry and protects consumers. Previous Commissioner of Insurance David Mattax sadly passed away in April of 2017 and to date, Texas Governor Greg Abbott has not appointed a new Commissioner to the Texas Department of Insurance.

Changes to the Texas Insurance Code

The “Hailstorm Bill”, effective September 1, 2017, adds several new provisions to the Texas Insurance Code affecting first-party property insurance claims. Notably, the bill would create a new Chapter 542A for weather-related claims, which changes the requirements for pre-suit notice and inspections, allow for the assumption of agent liability, and limit the number of recoverable attorneys’ fees. Other changes are as follows:

Inspections – Section 542A.004 provides that the person who receives pre-suit notice may provide a written request to inspect the insured property within 30 days after receiving the notice. It further provides that the inspection is to actually occur within 60 days of the date the person receives the pre-suit notice if reasonably possible.
Assumption of Liability – Section 542A.006 allows insurers to elect to assume whatever liability an agent might have to the claimant for the agent’s acts or omissions related to the claim by providing written notice to the claimant. An agent includes any employee, agent, representative, or adjuster acting on behalf of the insurer. Once the insurer assumes the agent’s liability, the claims against the agent must be dismissed with prejudice. By allowing the assumption of an adjuster’s or insurance agent’s liability, the bill aims to make it easier for insurers to remove cases to federal court.
Limitation of Attorneys’ Fees – If the policyholder’s attorney fails to comply with the new pre-suit notice requirements, the policyholder may be prohibited from recovering attorneys’ fees. Additionally, if a claim is tried, the number of recoverable attorneys’ fees will be adjusted. For a claimant to recover all attorneys’ fees, the award must equal at least 80% of the pre-suit damages demand, while a pre-suit demand equaling 20-79% of the damages award allows only for a scaled percentage recovery of attorneys’ fees. Should the award be 20% or less of a claimant’s original demand, the claimant recovers no attorneys’ fees. So now there arguably an incentive for Insurers to pay 20% less on every claim.
Reduced Statutory Penalty Interest – The new law lowers the penalty interest rate that insurers must pay if they fail to pay “timely and fully” from 18% per annum to a rate of adding 5% to the interest rate determined under Section 304.003 of the Finance Code, prejudgment interest which is currently 5%. Thus, the penalty is lowered from 18% to 10%. For claims to which Chapter 542A does not apply, however, the statutory penalty interest rate would still be 18%. That’s right, Texas lawmakers have lowered the penalty on Insurers who abuse the system and take advantage of the consumer from around 18% to 10%.
Rep. Greg Bonnen sponsored the bill passed by the Texas House. Texans for Lawsuit Reform and The Texas Coalition for Affordable Insurance Solutions (TCAIS), which represents major homeowners insurance companies doing business in Texas, praised the passage of HB 1774.

Anyone who suffers damage from a hurricane will be thankful if they have homeowners or windstorm coverage and flood insurance. But much work lies ahead. Filing claims for major damage can be a full-time job because you must document every loss and negotiate a fair settlement. Omissions and missteps you make can mean a lower payout.

That’s where public insurance adjusters come in. These professionals manage the claim for you in exchange for a fee or percentage of the insurance payout. While insurance company adjusters represent the insurer’s interests, public insurance adjusters represent you. Their job is to get you every dollar to which you’re entitled.

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In Texas, public adjusters are licensed by the state. If someone tells you they are a public adjuster (PA), make them prove it. Sadly, you can’t just take their word for it. Ask for a photo ID and their Texas license number. It wouldn’t hurt to snap a photo of both for your documentation.

(MoneyWatch) A few days ago I wrote about how to challenge the first offer from your insurance company with respect to a claim you have filed. In that column, I stressed the importance of carefully reviewing the adjuster’s report and using the documentation you gathered to make your case for a larger settlement.

But if you have a very large insurance claim or there is a significant difference between what the adjuster says the insurance company will pay and what you believe should be paid under your policy, you may want to consider getting a professional to help.

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We encourage small businesses to take a look at policies every 2-3 years to ensure they’re properly covered. Prevention is also key: owners should evaluate possible threats to the business, develop recovery plans, and test those plans all in advance.

Scott Lacourse, a contributing writer for the Boston Business Journal, makes a crucial note in relation to small businesses:

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Public insurance adjusters evaluate property loss on behalf of a policyholder and help them file insurance claims in exchange for a fee. They are licensed professionals who work for individuals and businesses – not insurance companies – and can add tremendous value by getting the most out of an insurance policy’s coverage.

What Is A Public Insurance Adjuster?

Public insurance adjusters are the only property loss professionals who work on behalf of policyholders. Individuals and businesses hire public insurance adjusters when they need assistance initially filing a claim or feel a claim amount offered by an insurance company is incorrect.

 

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