Survey Assesses the Impact of the Pandemic on Small Businesses

A survey by Main Street America shows the sobering reality of just how devastating COVID-19 has been for small business revenue and the millions of Americans employed by locally owned companies with fewer than 20 employees. The following highlights key finding from the 2020 survey.

Business interruption

Regarding the impact of business interruption (BI) due to the pandemic, 80% of the businesses surveyed indicated they had already had to close temporarily at least once since early March. When asked about the potential for a permanent closure if BI continues at the current rate, nearly two-thirds of businesses said they feel they are at risk of closing for good in the next five months and more than 30% indicated a possible permanent closure in the next two months.

Unfortunately, recovering COVID-19-related losses under a BI policy has become a challenge. In most policies, a qualifying BI loss is defined as having caused actual physical damage or a civil authority claim. A physical damage loss requires direct physical damage to property — something that doesn’t exist in most pandemic-related losses.

Loss of revenue

Since early March, nearly three-quarters of small businesses reported a 50% drop in revenue, with 57% reporting a 75% or more drop. As a result of this substantial reduction in income, businesses have been forced to lay off employees. For companies with five or fewer employees, 85% said they have or are planning to lay off between one to five workers. Before the end of the year, this could mean that approximately 35.7 million Americans employed by small businesses will be out of a job.

The assistance small businesses value most

When prompted to share what types of pandemic-related financial assistance small businesses would value the most, 70.17% said financial assistance for at least 90 days and 65.70% said penalty-free extensions on expenses such as rent, utilities, inventory and supplies. After citing financial assistance as a priority, 20.98% of businesses said they would like assistance with how to best protect their employees from contracting COVID-19 and 21.35% said they want to know how to best protect their customers.

Support for small-business America

The Small Business Majority has created a policy agenda that will promote a thriving economy and increase prosperity for local businesses. The agenda presents short- and long-term recommendations that can be enacted at the national, state and local levels and includes:

  • Adjusting repayment due dates on property taxes and commercial rent.
  • Ensuring the delay of payroll tax payments and grant/loan assistance.
  • Providing forbearance on all small business loans — including credit card debt — for at least six months.
  • Cash reimbursement in place of quarterly tax credits to employers that offer paid family medical and sick leave.
  • The passing of legislation to ensure that insurance companies provide coverage for revenue losses because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Although this survey represents a snapshot of a point in time, there will naturally be more pandemic-related challenges that small businesses will be up against. As an insurance professional, your clients will be looking to you to help them understand how they can best mitigate their losses, identify potential gaps in coverage and facilitate the claims process.

The pandemic has made 2020 a difficult year for everyone. Now more than ever, your small business clients will be relying on you to keep them informed and to assist them with a challenging claims process. Don’t let continuing education requirements take valuable time away from your policyholders. At FastrackCE, we make it easy for you to get all of your CE credits completed in one place — including state-mandated courses such as ethics, flood, long-term care and annuity training. For more information, call 800-544-3605 or visit us at fastrackce.com.

*The Main Street America survey was conducted online, and more than 5,850 small-business owners responded, of which 91% reported having fewer than 20 employees.

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COVID-19: 5 Industries That Have Thrived During the Pandemic

COVID Business OpenRestaurants, hotels, travel and retail are just a few of the industries that were hit particularly hard during the pandemic and that will likely continue to struggle as the country begins to slowly reopen. But despite the negative impact of COVID-19 on some enterprises, there are a few businesses that actually experienced positive economic growth.

Pharmaceutical. Considered an essential business, pharmacies remained open during the peak of the pandemic and have experienced a substantial increase in business. In fact, Rite Aid reported that upon the onset of the quarantine, online sales grew 10 times greater than normal demand levels, Forbes reported. As a result, the influx of business has pharmacies and health companies looking to fill a number of new positions to meet the online and in-store demand.

Grocery. Throughout the quarantine, a trip to the grocery store may have been the only outing most Americans experienced. And although there were disruptions in the overall supply chain, grocery stores continued to generate substantial revenue, which created a demand for additional positions ranging from shelf stockers to public relations staff and even supply chain logistics managers. For example, in early April, the superstore Walmart was looking to fill nearly 150,000 new positions to meet the growing demand.

Landscape/gardening. The pandemic grounded Americans to their homes for what seemed like an indefinite amount of time. And even now, as the country begins to reopen, most Americans remain closer to home until a vaccine becomes available. As a result, many landscape and lawncare companies experienced an unseasonably good business. Allwood Recyclers in Oregon told KATU-TV that business since the start of the pandemic has increased with the surge in deliveries of yard and garden materials. Smaller nurseries also saw business pick up in the spring and summer months.

Food delivery services. Since the beginning of the pandemic, many consumers have been relying on food delivery services such as Uber Eats, Grubhub and DoorDash, as well as grocery and meal kit delivery services. In fact, spending on meal delivery services increased 70% from last year, according to data from research firm Second Measure, Barron’s reported. In addition, the data also indicates that the size of food orders have increased by 24%. When asked how they’ve utilized grocery delivery, 66% of consumers surveyed in a poll conducted by OnePoll and reported by Fox News, said they have utilized at least one type of food delivery this year and 55% have tried a meal kit delivery service.

Communication technology. With so many people working remotely, businesses in communication technologies have experienced a sharp increase in the demand for their products and services.  Slack Technologies reported adding nearly 9,000 new paid customers in Q2 of this year — an 80% increase compared with the previous quarter. Zoom, a very popular video conferencing tool, now hosts approximately 300 million meeting participants a day, and its stock is up 120%.

Conclusion

The pandemic has thrown a serious financial blow to many industries and has impacted nearly 21% of the U.S. labor force. And even as states begin to reopen, it could take a while for most businesses to recover. As an insurance professional, it’s important to keep the lines of communication with your commercial business clients open and to see how you can help during this challenging time. And while there are no easy fixes, just being there as a resource for policy and coverage questions, billing issues and claim processing can go a long way to building solid, long-term relationships with your clients.

About FastrackCE

Ensuring continuity in business in the midst of a crisis situation such as the COVID-19 pandemic is vital. At FastrackCE, we make it easy for insurance professionals like you to maintain current continuing education licensing requirements so you can focus on serving your clients. When you need us, we can help. For more information, call 800-544-3605 or visit us at fastrackce.com.

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When is a COVID-19 Business Interruption Claim Payable?

Employer helping clientSince early March, nearly 57% of businesses have experienced a 75% or more drop in revenue due to COVID-19, according to a recent survey. In fact, around two-thirds of business owners said they may have to shut their doors indefinitely if business disruption continues at the current rate. That means 7.5 million small businesses will be at risk of closing permanently over the coming five months, and 3.5 million are at risk of closure in the next two months.

As an insurance professional, you may have clients inquiring as to whether their policy will cover business interruption losses due to COVID-19. The short answer is, it depends. And while every situation and policy is different, the following are general concepts that can help you better address client concerns.

In general, for a business interruption claim to be payable, a commercial policy will require that some form of physical loss or property damage occurs. So when a business shuts down or loses customers due to COVID-19, insurers are likely to take the position that there has not been an actual physical loss or damage to property and, therefore, there is no payable claim. However, there may be a credible argument that if the presence of the virus in a building has rendered it unsafe for use, then the insured has indeed experienced a type of physical loss or damage.

Right now, it’s impossible to say for certain whether a business interruption claim due to losses from the pandemic will be payable. This is why it’s important to review commercial policies and assist clients in the filing and tracking of claims. Doing so is a proactive way to help your clients understand what is and isn’t covered. For example, there may be additional policy provisions or language that, if applicable, may help cover some types of losses. These coverages can include:

  • Contingent business interruption. Applies to an insured that may experience a loss arising from a disruption to their supply chain caused by a supplier, vendor or logistics provider that is unable to offer or deliver products or services to the insured.
  • Civil authority coverage. Protects the insured’s business from losses because of governmental action that impairs or prohibits access to the insured business, such as business interruption losses caused by government closure orders. Losses are typically capped, and coverage depends on the reason for the government action.
  • Event cancellation coverage. May provide coverage for losses sustained when a business is forced to cancel events. This may cover expected revenue and paid expenses that cannot be refunded. Some policies may be limited only to natural disasters and may not include coverage for a pandemic or communicable disease outbreak. However, in some cases, if an event must be canceled due to government orders, coverage may apply.
  • Environmental coverage. While most environmental policies do not offer coverage directly related to COVID-19 or any form of communicable disease, some policies provide broad coverage for many other environmental exposures. For example, the unexpected closing of a business for an indeterminate amount of time may result in property that isn’t being properly maintained. As a result, there could be environmental exposures such as mold growth or other indoor contaminants, as well as water damage from pipes, storage tanks, etc.

Today, insurers and brokers continue to grapple with the myriad claims relating to COVID-19 business losses — specifically those pertaining to business interruption. As your clients learn how to navigate changes brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s important for you to stay informed and help address issues and concerns.

At FastrackCE, we’re here to make it easy for you to maintain current CE licensing requirements so you can continue to serve your business clients during this challenging time. When you need us, we’re here to help. For more information, call 800-544-3605 or visit us at fastrackce.com.

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Surviving the Pandemic: Survey Shows That Indy Agencies Must Learn To Navigate COVID-19

business meetingA national survey of Big “I” agencies by the Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America (the Big “I”) revealed that COVID-19 has impacted and continues to impact independent insurance agencies. Of the agencies surveyed:

  • Almost half reported a decrease in revenue this year.
  • Forty-six percent had a loss in commercial lines business.
  • Forty-one percent said that most of their staff continue to work off premises.

Today, the three primary areas that independent agencies will find beneficial during and after the pandemic in order to continue agency operations include addressing the crisis with clients, training staff who are working remotely and building a strong online presence.

Addressing the crisis with clients. Insurance agents know how important retention is. But to keep clients on the books and not have them leave come renewal time often depends on the policyholder experience over the past six or 12 months. That’s why it’s critical to instill trust and confidence during this uncertain time. This includes keeping insureds informed as to how the agency is addressing the pandemic and making it easier for them to get the insurance help they need. For example, how are you making it easier for policyholders to make payments and policy changes and file a claim? What about getting answers to basic policy questions? If you haven’t already thought about and taken steps to make life easier for your clients, now’s the time.

Training staff who are working remotely. It’s important that all agency staff follow best practices while working off premises. This will ensure that your policyholders and potential new clients will continue to get the service they need and deserve. This can include following regular agency business hours, limiting background noise and promptly returning calls. In addition, it’s important for agencies to provide off-premises staff with the tools and information they need to best serve policyholders. This can include having access to important carrier information such as claim and adjuster email addresses and phone numbers, billing and other customer service resources, and knowing how to facilitate quotes and issue new policies — to name just a few.

Building a stronger online presence. More consumers are shopping and buying insurance online. If your agency has been a slow adopter of digital, now’s the time to get on board. A good place to start is by enhancing your website. Key initiatives can include online quoting and claim reporting, self-serve policy changes, and a billing portal complete with a chatbot to answer questions. It’s also a good time to explore possible niches that can open up new revenue streams for your agency, such as small-business lines, farm and ranch coverage, or even life insurance. Once you have identified a profitable niche, promote it on your website, by way of your agency e-newsletter and social media channels.

Today, it will be the fast-moving agents who are proactive in creating value for their insureds who will survive and even thrive during this critical time.

At FastrackCE, we understand the difficult economic environment COVID-19 has created for insurance agents, which is why we’ve made it easy for you to complete all of your insurance continuing education credits in one easy and convenient place. When you’re ready, we’re here for you. For more information, call 800-544-3605 or visit us at fastrackce.com.

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3 Ways Insurance Agents Can Maintain Business Continuity Amid COVID-19

According to a study by the Society for Human Resource Management, 62% of small businesses stated that the COVID-19 pandemic has created a significant decrease in revenue since early March. And while the insurance industry itself appears to be weathering the crisis better than most business sectors, agents will find themselves facing new challenges in order to maintain business continuity. The following are three ways insurance agents can better prepare for these challenges and pivot accordingly.

Help your clients find the solutions they need — now. With so many Americans struggling to make ends meet, your insureds might not have the finances to pay their premiums on time, or, might not be able to pay at all. As their agent, be prepared to work with your clients and proactively respond to these financial challenges. This can include contacting the carrier to inquire about a temporary extension or setting up a payment plan to prevent a policy from lapsing. Today, many insurance carriers recognize the financial impact COVID-19 has had on their policyholders and have adapted in order to find solutions.

Create useful and meaningful content and put it online. Marketing strategies — now and after the pandemic — should center on using content to create and maintain powerful online connections with your policyholders. Now more than ever, communication is critical to maintaining relationships to help retain customers, and posting content online is a powerful tool to share information and insurance solutions. For example, your business clients will undoubtedly have questions as they struggle with emerging risk exposures when they begin to reopen. This can include issues related to potential gaps in existing insurance coverage, business interruption claims, workers’ compensation coverage for employees, etc. Keep policyholders informed by posting content on your website and social media accounts, sending out email updates, and adding information on customer accounts. Maintaining your visibility, sharing information with consumers and addressing specific concerns are positive ways to build, reinforce and retain relationships with your clients.

Look ahead and plan for the future. It is uncertain just how long the COVID-19 crisis will last. But what we do know is that the impact on insurance agencies and their policyholders isn’t going away anytime soon. That is why it’s important to take a hard look at your marketing strategies for the future, now. Careful planning can help you to determine future plans for your insurance agency’s growth and to make up for loss of income due to policy cancellations and reductions in premiums. This can include exploring and moving into additional niche markets, and expanding your footprint in different industries for greater diversification. Start by establishing a business and marketing plan outlining new opportunities available as well as what it will take in terms of expertise, marketing resources, staff and third-party vendors to turn those opportunities into new business.

This is a challenging time for everyone as we learn how to navigate changes brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. At FastrackCE, we’re pleased that we can make it easy for you to maintain current CE licensing requirements so you can continue to serve your business clients. When you need us, we’re here to help. For more information, call 800-544-3605 or visit us at fastrackce.com.

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