In This Issue


COVID-19 Coronavirus Resources

Families First Coronavirus Response Act

FY 2021 Base Rate Changes

Class Update: Law Enforcement
De-Escalation and Decision-Making Training

Cyber Security Program and Plan

We’ve Moved!

Message from the President - March 2020

As our state works to address the COVID-19 pandemic, our hearts are with our members. PE Partners’ members serve hundreds, thousands, and tens of thousands of citizens who rely on essential services around the clock. Because of your dedication, water, wastewater, sanitation, police, fire, emergency medical and other vital services will continue to be provided by local governments during this difficult time, along with feeding and other community care programs.

To safeguard Public Entity Partners’ ability to keep serving our members, our central office and claims personnel are now working remotely. Onsite training, surveys and visits by PE Partners’ employees have been suspended, and property valuations scheduled for the coming weeks will be conducted unaccompanied. In addition, OSI, the vendor that performs workers’ compensation audits of payrolls on behalf of PE Partners, is now working to collect needed information electronically in response to COVID-19 safety concerns.

While there have been a few modifications to our schedule and work habits, there has been no change in the status of our operations or our commitment to you. We are actively communicating with our members to answer questions, process policy applications and administer claims, and we will continue to support you in every way as you serve your citizens.

We want to remind and encourage our members to please file all claims through our online portal in order to expedite the receipt and evaluation of those claims. You can login to the PE Partners online portal by visiting our website. If you cannot file a claim online, please reach out to your member services representative, who will gladly assist you in this process.

With risk management at the heart of our organization’s mission, we consistently encourage members to be mindful of workplace dangers. In response to a crisis such as COVID-19, this becomes even more crucial due to the dependency of Tennessee’s citizens upon the services provided by their local governments. We view ourselves as a first responder and essential services support system for our members. While we cannot provide answers to every question, we will do our utmost to help you navigate the uncertainties of this constantly evolving situation — both now and when we emerge from the pandemic. We have placed numerous resources regarding COVID-19 on our website to assist you throughout this crisis, which you may also read about in this newsletter.

Thank you for the work you are doing as you serve your community. We are proud and honored to support you, especially in this turbulent time.

Respectfully,

Charles DeMore signature

Charles DeMore
President / CEO




 

COVID-19 Coronavirus Resources

Because issues related to the COVID-19 coronavirus are evolving and changing daily, Public Entity Partners’ members should follow the guidance and directives provided by federal authorities, and consult with their city attorneys and local officials to determine their entity’s response to this crisis and the best interests of their citizens each step of the way.

In an effort to provide additional assistance during this time, we have compiled a list of frequently asked questions we have received from our members. These questions and answers should be used as additional reference only, and are subject to updates or changes from federal, state and local authorities. These have been posted to our website, along with numerous COVID-19 resources.

These resources include:

CDC Interim Guidance for:

EEOC – Pandemic Preparedness in the Workplace and the Americans with Disabilities Act

COVID-19 Guidance from the Office of the Comptroller - Including Specifics about Meetings

TDEC Division of Water Resources Recommendations for Drinking Water and Wastewater Systems Relative to Coronavirus (COVID-19)

OSHA - Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19

MTAS COVID-19 Resources

TML COVID-19 Resources

Information is also available regarding executive orders from the governor’s office, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, workers’ compensation, law enforcement considerations, and employees who may have been exposed to or have contracted COVID-19. Additional information, links and resources will be added as they become available.
 
If you have questions or information you would like to share with us, please reach out to your casualty loss control consultant.

East Tennessee
Judy Housley
JHousley@PEpartners.org

Middle Tennessee
Chester Darden
CDarden@PEpartners.org

West Tennessee
Paul Chambliss
PChambliss@PEpartners.org

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Families First Coronavirus Response Act Requires Public Employers
to Provide Paid Sick and FMLA Leave to Employees

By Geoffrey A. Lindley – Rainey, Kizer, Reviere & Bell, PLC

On March 18, 2020, the President signed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) into law requiring employers to provide paid sick leave and paid leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to employees under certain conditions. On March 24, 2020, the United States Department of Labor (DOL) issued the first round of guidance clarifying that the FFCRA’s effective date is April 1, 2020. The paid sick and FMLA leave requirements will expire December 31, 2020. The DOL’s guidance, fact sheets, and a question and answer sheet are located at the DOL’s website (www.dol.gov). The FFCRA is applicable to private employers with fewer than 500 employees and public employers.

Paid Sick Leave
The FFCRA paid sick leave requirement is applicable to all employees who are unable to work in the traditional sense or work remotely because of a need for leave under the following circumstances:

  1. the employee is subject to a Federal, State, or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID–19;
  2. the employee has been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine due to concerns related to COVID–19;
  3. the employee is experiencing symptoms of COVID–19 and seeking a medical diagnosis;
  4. the employee is caring for an individual who is subject to a Federal, State, or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID–19 or has been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine due to concerns related to COVID–19.
  5. the employee is caring for a son or daughter of such employee if the school or place of care of the son or daughter has been closed, or the child care provider of such son or daughter is unavailable, due to COVID–19 precautions.
  6. the employee is experiencing any other substantially similar condition specified by the Secretary of Health and Human Services in consultation with the Secretary of the Treasury and the Secretary of Labor.

 

A full-time employee is eligible for up to 80 hours of paid sick leave, and a part-time employee is eligible for paid sick leave for the number of hours that the employee works on average over a two-week period. For leave related to reasons (1), (2), and (3) above, an employee is paid the sick leave at the employee’s regular rate of pay up to a cap of $511/day with a maximum total payment of $5,110. For leave related to reasons (4), (5), and (6), an employee is paid the sick leave at 2/3 of an employee’s pay up to a cap of $200/day with a maximum total payment of $2,000.

Expanded FMLA Leave
Since the FMLA’s inception, the definition of a covered employer has included public employers, regardless of a public employer’s number of employees. However, the FMLA has always included in the definition of covered employee the requirement that a covered employee work for a covered employer at a location where the employer has 50 or more employees within a 75 mile radius. Therefore, while smaller public employers with less than 50 employees have always been covered employers, they have never had covered employees, making the FMLA inapplicable to them. However, the FFCRA has altered this with regard to the new expanded FMLA leave by changing the definition of employee for this new expanded leave only to exclude the requirement that a covered employee work for a covered employer at a location where the employer has 50 or more employees within a 75 mile radius. Thus, this expanded FMLA leave is applicable to public employers regardless of the number of employees in their workforce.

Regarding new FMLA benefits, the FFCRA expands FMLA coverage by adding a category of paid leave to the FMLA. All other categories of FMLA leave have always been and continue to be unpaid. The paid FMLA leave applies to all employees who have been employed by the employer for at least 30 calendar days and are unable to work in the traditional sense or remotely because of an employee’s need for leave to care for the employee’s son or daughter under 18 years of age if the school or place of care has been closed, or the child care provider of such son or daughter is unavailable because of a public health emergency. A public health emergency is defined as an emergency with respect to COVID–19 declared by a Federal, State, or local authority.

If an employee qualifies for this expanded FMLA leave, the first 10 days of leave is unpaid. For the remainder of the employee’s FMLA leave under the FFCRA, the employer must pay the employee 2/3 of the employee’s regular pay based on the employee’s average hours worked up to a cap of $200/day with a maximum total payment of $10,000. The FMLA generally allows employees up to 12 weeks of leave. Therefore, unless an employee that qualifies for this paid FMLA leave has used some of the employee’s 12-week allotment for other FMLA-qualifying reasons, the employee could take up to 12 weeks of leave under the FFCRA with the first two weeks unpaid and the remaining 10 weeks paid subject to the caps.

However, as the trigger for the expanded FMLA leave is essentially the same as reason (5) for the paid sick leave discussed above, an employee can draw the full 12 weeks at 2/3 of the employee’s regular pay with the first two weeks categorized as paid sick leave and the remaining 10 weeks as paid FMLA leave subject to the caps. Additionally, the job restoration requirements of the FMLA generally apply to this expanded leave with some relief from those requirements for employers with fewer than 25 employees if certain conditions are met.

Exclusions and Exemptions
An employer of an employee who is a health care provider or an emergency responder may elect to exclude such employee from the paid sick leave and FMLA leave requirements of the FFCRA. Additionally, employers with fewer than 50 employees may seek an exemption from the FFCRA’s paid sick leave and FMLA leave requirements if providing such leave would jeopardize the viability of the business as a going concern. The DOL has not yet addressed how a small employer, public or private, can claim this exemption but has advised that employers document why offering such paid leave will jeopardize their business. The DOL has further stated that it will outline the criteria for this small business exemption in more detail in forthcoming regulations.

Tax Credits
The FFCRA provides for refundable tax credits against payroll taxes for employers required to provide paid sick leave and paid FMLA leave under this Act at an amount equal to 100% of the qualified sick leave and 100% of the qualified family leave wages.

Public Employer Considerations
The FFCRA has dramatically altered federal law with regard to paid leave, at least through the end of 2020. Therefore, public employers should immediately consider the following.

  • Employers must provide notice of the FFCRA’s paid leave entitlements to their employees. The forms on the DOL’s website noted above are a good place to start.
  • Employers should set processes for tracking the paid sick leave and FMLA leave taken by employees in order prove compliance with the FFCRA and enable employers to claim the federal tax credit.
  • Public employers with fewer than 50 employees should begin analyzing whether they need to claim the small business exemption and, if so, document why, so that they are ready to claim the exemption when the DOL provides more information on how to do so.
  • Public employers that employee health care providers and emergency responders should determine whether they need to exclude such employees from the FFCRA’s paid sick and FMLA requirements, and, if so, the justification for and the criteria for doing so. Excluding some health care provider and emergency responder employees and not others without documented legitimate, nondiscriminatory business reasons for doing so could give rise to discrimination claims.

 

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FY 2021 Base Rate Changes

In February, Public Entity Partners’ board of directors met to consider base rate changes for the fund year beginning on July 1, 2020. Our board of directors plays a very important role in shaping the direction of our organization, and in positioning us to be financially stable for weathering challenging times. PE Partners utilizes many pooling best practices to ensure our base rates are adequate for covering claims filed on behalf of our members.

At the February board of directors meeting, the results of an actuarial analysis of our base rates were presented and used as guidance in determining base rate changes.

For FY 2021, the following adjustments have been made to base rates:

  • Workers’ Compensation -6.7% (weighted by class)
  • Property +15%
  • Liability -1.7% (based on the following breakdown):
    • General Liability -20%
    • Law Enforcement +8.5%
    • E&O +5%
    • Auto Liability +6%
    • APD -6%

The 2014 workers’ compensation reform has significantly impacted our workers’ compensation losses, and our members have consistently implemented good risk management practices that protect their employees from accidents and injuries. 

Last month, we also announced that our board of directors declared a $14,000,000 dividend to be returned to members as a credit to policies renewing during the upcoming fiscal year.

If you have questions about the base rate changes, please reach out to your regional underwriter.

East Tennessee
Jim Bell Hatchel
JHatchel@PEpartners.org
800.624.9698

Middle Tennessee
Anthony Roman
ARoman@PEpartners.org
800.624.9698

West Tennessee
Janine Helton
JHelton@PEpartners.org
800.624.9698

 

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Law Enforcement De-Escalation and Decision-Making Training Class Update

For the four remaining deliveries of the UT-LEIC De-Escalation and Decision Making training sponsored by Public Entity Partners, the schedule will be altered slightly to accommodate participants during the COVID-19 pandemic. This training program is supported by PE Partners’ Police Risk Management Scholarship.

The training was originally scheduled for April 6 - 7, May 4 - 5, May 11 - 12, and June 1 - 2.
           
The classroom portion of both days will now be taught as a one-day online class on these dates: April 6, May 4, May 11 and June 1. All onsite simulator training will be rescheduled at a later date, based on availability of participants. The current goal is to deliver the simulator portion of this training in both Oak Ridge and Murfreesboro no later than the middle of August.

The first day of training will be delivered online via Zoom, and each participant will be emailed instructions on how to log in to the training.

If a member of your law enforcement agency is registered to attend one of these sessions and have questions, please contact UT-LEIC / Greg Coker at greg.coker@tennessee.edu or 865-946-3230.

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Cyber Security Program and Plan

The Comptroller’s Office has launched a Cyber Aware initiative to provide tips for staying cyber aware, some cybersecurity definitions and a Q&A list, as well as several articles that highlight recent cyber attacks targeting local governments in Tennessee and across the country.

As part of this initiative, the Comptroller’s Office shares some critical areas local governments should consider, including overall computer security, the dangers of public Wi-Fi networks, protecting your computer from malware, general questions to ask vendors, and information about reporting a cyber or data incident.
  
Public Entity Partners began offering a cyber extension to our Privacy & Network Liability coverage on July 1, 2019. While we expanded our coverage offering for cyber, we also recognize that no amount of coverage can protect local governments without the proper cyber security safeguards in place.

In August 2019 during our annual Risk & Insurance Symposium, we offered an extensive list of cyber security classes, including sessions on data backups and encryption, intro to IT security, cyber awareness training for employees, and tips from the FBI. PE Partners has also worked with members to provide on-site cyber security training.

If you have not reviewed your organization’s vulnerabilities to cyber attacks, now is the time to develop a plan. Unfortunately, local governments continue to be targeted for their storehouses of sensitive information.

As you evaluate your cyber security program and plan, a great place to start is by outlining the vulnerabilities in your current IT operations. Visit the PE Partners online portal to download our Sensitive Information and Computer Security Loss Control Guideline.

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We’ve Moved!

Public Entity Partners’ corporate headquarters has moved.

Please note our new address:

Public Entity Partners
562 Franklin Road, Suite 200
Franklin, TN 37069

If you are sending underwriting applications, claims correspondence, or other updates and information, please use our new mailing address.

All mail has been forwarded through the post office, but if you experience a delayed response on something you have mailed, please reach out to our office so that we can assist you.

For invoice payments, please continue to use the address provided on your invoice. Our bank provides a secured payment lockbox.

Public Entity Partners — Payments
PO Box 116553
Atlanta, GA 30368-6553

Our phone and fax numbers will remain the same.

800.624.9698 (office phone)
615.371.0049 (office phone)
615.377.3067 (main fax line)

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