Insurers Respond to COVID-19, Helping Policyholders, Communities

Among the ways insurers are helping policyholders and the general public are by providing early dividends, premium relief, making charitable community contributions, pledging not to lay off employees, maintaining payments to service vendors, and waiving rent to tenants.

(Storefront tenants at Prudential HQ in Newark, N.J. Image source: Prudential/Google.)

Insurers’ immediate response to COVID-19 was to equip the majority of their associates to work at home, with all that implies from the standpoint of technology applications, infrastructure, and security measures. Following that rapid adjustment, insurers have been responding to the needs of policyholders and distribution partners, particularly in the form of some kind of financial relief. However, they’ve gone further than that, with many making charitable contributions and otherwise helping communities—as in the example of Prudential waiving rent for tenants in its headquarters building in Newark, N.J. We couldn’t possibly share all the ways insurers are responding, but the following provides a representative sample of how insurers are acting in this second phase of COVID-19 response.

MetLife Provides Relief to Auto Insurance Customers

Recognizing the economic hardship caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, MetLife’s (New York) property and casualty business, MetLife Auto & Home, is providing financial relief, preserving coverage in the event of missed payments, and processing claims remotely to ensure social distancing.

Darla Finchum, President, MetLife Auto & Home.

“Being there for our customers when they need us the most is the promise MetLife delivers on every day,” comments Darla Finchum, president, MetLife Auto & Home. “People are struggling, through no fault of their own, and we can help.”

Measures MetLife Auto & Home is taking:

  • The insurer is enacting payment and billing leniency, not canceling policies due to non payment through July 1, 2020.
  • Active MetLife Auto customers who are paid to date will receive a 15 percent credit for April and May based on their monthly premiums.
  • Extending coverage under all personal auto insurance programs at no additional charge while customers are making deliveries in response to the crisis, effective March 20, 2020, through May 1, 2020.
  • Offering expanded identity protection by extending cyber security services through CyberScout to immediate family members of current customers through August 2020.
  • With regard to claims, the carrier will only conduct contactless reviews to reduce person-to-person contact during the COVID-19 emergency.

Mercury Insurance Announces $65M Premium Giveback Program

Gabriel Tirador, President and CEO, Mercury Insurance.

Recognizing that the COVID-19 crisis has altered driving patterns, resulting in fewer accidents and claims, Mercury Insurance (Los Angeles) has announced that the company will be giving back 15 percent of monthly auto insurance premiums to customers in April and May. Subject to regulatory approval, the company will automatically credit customers’ accounts, providing much needed relief during this time. The Mercury Giveback program applies to personal auto policyholders in the 11 states in which they operate.

“We want our customers to know we’ve got their back,” comments Gabriel Tirador, President and CEO, Mercury Insurance. “For nearly 60 years, Mercury has provided best-in-class protection at an affordable price. And during these uncertain times we’re going even further by giving back more than $65 million to our customers.”

Chubb Commits $10M to Pandemic Relief, Pledges No COVID-19 Layoffs

Chubb (New York/Zurich) has committed $10 million to pandemic relief efforts globally.  The support will go to people and programs providing emergency frontline services and for assistance to the most financially vulnerable members of the community who have been impacted the hardest by the pandemic.

Evan G. Greenberg, Chairman and CEO, Chubb.

The insurer will work with a range of partner organizations in the United States and other countries to provide essential resources immediately in areas facing the most acute need.  This includes organizations providing emergency medical equipment and supplies to healthcare facilities, and to community foodbanks to support those who have become unemployed as a result of the pandemic.  The funding will be made by the Chubb Charitable Foundation.

Separately, the company announced that it will not conduct any layoffs of Chubb employees while in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic health crisis.

“We are committed to supporting people, business and communities most impacted by this global crisis,” comments Evan G. Greenberg, Chairman and CEO, Chubb.  “Our $10 million commitment will add to the urgent efforts required to meet the immediate health and nutrition needs of those most affected.  Concerning our no-layoff pledge, we want our 33,000 employees around the globe to be assured that their jobs are secure at this difficult time.  Given all of the uncertainty that exists in the world, employment and benefits are one thing my colleagues will not have to be concerned about at this time.”

Allstate Foundation Gives $5M to Address Community Needs

As COVID-19 cases continue to grow across the United States, The Allstate Foundation (Northbrook, Ill.) is contributing $5 million to accelerate relief and recovery for domestic violence victims, youth in need, first responders and communities at large.

The Allstate Foundation, together with Allstate employees and agency force members, will donate resources across the nation to support communities during the COVID-19 crisis.

Local Communities: Two million dollars will be distributed in the communities where Allstate has the largest employee presence—greater Chicago, Charlotte, Dallas and Phoenix—as well as across Illinois. The Foundation described the breakdown of its charitable giving as follows:

Domestic Violence Victims: As one of the most vulnerable populations, victims of domestic violence are especially at risk if they are sheltering in place with their abusers. The Allstate Foundation has partnered with the National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV) for over 15 years and is contributing $500,000 to help NNEDV support more than 100 local domestic violence organizations. Earlier this month, the Foundation also provided funding for the National Domestic Violence Hotline to enable remote-working technology.

Youth in Need: As youth across the country are at home indefinitely and potentially experiencing anxiety and uncertainty, The Allstate Foundation helped make Inner Explorer’s audio-guided mindfulness program available to families everywhere for free. The Allstate Foundation also provided the National Runaway Safeline with technology resources for remote counselors to help at-risk youth.

First Responders: As they risk their lives on the front lines, The Allstate Foundation will provide $1 million in support of first responders.

The Foundation reports that it will match Allstate employee and agency force donations dollar for dollar, doubling their contributions and adding $1.4 million to the program, for a total of $2.8 million in matching funds.

Rich Gergasko, President and CEO, Texas Mutual.

Texas Mutual Distributes $330M in Policyholder Dividends Two Months Early

Texas Mutual Insurance Company (Austin), the state’s largest workers’ compensation provider, announced that its board of directors voted unanimously to distribute $330 million in policyholder dividends to be paid out two months early. The company has historically paid dividends in June, and in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, saw an immediate need to distribute dividends to its qualifying policyholders two months ahead of schedule.

More than 57,000 Texas business owners, about 80 percent of Texas Mutual’s customers, will receive dividends this year, according to a company statement. Texas Mutual paid its first dividend in 1999, and this year’s payout brings the total to more than $3.1 billion delivered back to Texas businesses over the last 22 years.

“We know that our dividend program provides an economic boost for the state and will help many of our policyholders in a critical time,” comments Rich Gergasko, President and CEO, Texas Mutual. “Our mission to build a stronger, safer Texas is more important now than it ever has been, and we are proud to deliver these funds to our policyholders who count on us.”

Rockford Mutual Contributes to Illinois’ COVID-19 Response Fund

Rockford Mutual Insurance Company (RMIC; Rockford, Ill.) reports that it has contributed to the new Illinois COVID-19 Response Fund.

Kent Shantz, President & CEO, RMIC.

The United Way of Illinois and the Alliance of Illinois Community Foundations, in collaboration with the Office of Governor JB Pritzker, are establishing the Illinois COVID-19 Response Fund to raise funds from individual, corporate, and foundation donors to be disbursed to nonprofit organizations across the state serving individuals, families and communities hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We understand that communities are being faced with very uncertain times, which is why we felt compelled to contribute what we could,” comments Kent Shantz, President & CEO, RMIC. Contributing to this fund will swiftly deploy additional financial resources to various local community foundations and nonprofits to support local residents. We are here for more than our community alone; we are here for you.”

Liberty Mutual Creates Personal Auto Customer Relief Refund Worth $250M

As part of its response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Liberty Mutual Insurance has created a Personal Auto Customer Relief Refund, which gives personal auto insurance customers a 15 percent refund on two months of their annual premium. This returns approximately $250 million to Liberty Mutual and Safeco personal auto insurance customers and builds on other customer support, including flexible payment options and delivery coverage expansion for auto policies.

“For more than a century, we’ve made it our goal to be there for people when they need us most,” comments David Long, Chairman and CEO, Liberty Mutual. “Today, more than ever, we recognize the uncertainty and financial challenges our customers are facing. We remain dedicated to serving our customers during this unprecedented pandemic, and we hope our premium relief and other actions we have taken offer support and help to alleviate some of their worries.”

David Long, Chairman and CEO, Liberty Mutual.

Personal Auto Customer Relief Refund: Personal auto insurance customers will receive a 15% refund on two months of their annual auto premium as of April 7, 2020, pending regulatory approval. The refunds will begin in April, and will be issued either by check or in the manner the customer made their most recent payment. The payments will happen automatically and customers do not need to call Liberty Mutual to receive the refund.

Payment Flexibility Options: Late fee charges have been automatically stopped and cancellations due to non-payment have been temporarily paused for personal auto and home customers from March 23 through at least May 22, 2020. We continue to work with individual customers to extend payment dates if needed and provide personalized support.

Delivery Coverage Expansion for Auto Policies: All personal auto policies have been expanded to cover customers who use their personal vehicles to deliver food and medicine. Standard Safeco personal auto policies typically exclude such coverage. This additional protection is in effect for all personal auto policies in all states for losses occurring from March 16 to May 22, 2020, and reported by July 1, 2020.

Prudential Waives Rent, Continues Payments to Service Vendors, Contributes $1.5M

As part of its COVID-19 response, in its capacity as landlord, Prudential Financial (Newark, N.J.) has waived April rent for tenants in its retail spaces in Newark—most of whom are small business owners. The decision applies to both restaurants that are still allowed to provide takeout and stores mandated by the state to close entirely. At the forefront of the decision was a desire to help these businesses maintain their payroll, the insurer

“It’s our hope that this rent relief allows you to continue paying your employees while your store is temporarily closed by municipal, state and/or federal order,” says a letter to tenants from Anthony Stivale, VP, Corporate Real Estate, Prudential.

Prudential serves as landlord to 21 storefronts, including coffee shops, dry cleaners and retail in and around its office buildings. About half the tenants are restaurants popular with employees working in the Newark office towers.

“I am overwhelmed by your helpful gesture before we even asked,” comments Jafar Ismail, owner of Global Burgers. “I hope all you wonderful folks and your families stay safe.”

Charles F. Lowrey, CEO, Prudential Financial.

With New Jersey under a stay-at-home order by Gov. Phil Murphy, all nonessential businesses have been ordered shut, creating a spike in jobless claims. “In New Jersey, 155,000 workers filed for unemployment (this week),” Gov. Murphy said on March 26. “That’s 16 times the number that filed the week before.”

In addition to enacting these lease waivers, Prudential reports that it continues to pay vendors for building services, such as janitorial, cafeteria, security and van drivers, in the hope they will not lay off any of their workforce.

According to Bill Barrett, VP, Corporate Real Estate, Prudential, the greatly reduced presence of Prudential employees will have a significant impact on the local economy. About 97 percent of Prudential employees in Newark are currently working remotely.

“We understand how difficult the current environment is on these businesses and their employees. We will assess the situation in mid-April to determine whether to extend a similar offering for May,” Barret comments. “Prudential doesn’t want these workers to lose a paycheck because our employees need to work from home.”

In addition to waiving Prudential has contributed $1.5 million in crisis relief funding, including:

  • $250,000 to the Small Business Emergency Grant Fund started by the City of Newark, the United Way and Invest Newark and another $50,000 to support employees of small businesses.
  • $600,000 to the United Way of Greater Newark’s Community COVID-19 Fund, which prioritizes public health, relief for individuals and families, support for the nonprofit sector and other emerging needs.

Insurers Adapt to the New Normal of COVID-19 and ‘Social Distancing’

Anthony R. O’Donnell // Anthony O'Donnell is Executive Editor of Insurance Innovation Reporter. For nearly two decades, he has been an observer and commentator on the use of information technology in the insurance industry, following industry trends and writing about the use of IT across all sectors of the insurance industry. He can be reached at [email protected] or (503) 936-2803.

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