The economic impact on small businesses due to COVID-19 is undeniable. Further, the uncertainty surrounding the length of the shut-down and the availability of funds for relief loans has left many business owners wondering whether the business interruption coverage in their commercial general liability policy will provide coverage to offset financial losses incurred. Politicians in Washington have asked insurers to justify the refusal to pay out claims, and already class action lawsuits are being filed around the country against insurance companies.
When assessing whether business interruption coverage in a commercial general liability insurance policy applies to economic losses caused by COVID-19, the answer is—it depends on the particular policy. Generally speaking, however, most business interruption clauses require the loss of business income to be caused by direct physical loss or damage to the property that prevents the business from operating. Although it appears the COVID-19 virus can survive on surfaces for up to five (5) days, it is doubtful that this phenomenon would qualify as direct physical loss or damage to the property or be of sufficient duration to trigger most insurance clauses. In addition, many commercial general liability insurance policies exclude coverage for losses caused by viral contamination.
On the contrary, it is possible that the specific wording and coverages in any particular policy may provide coverage. For example, businesses operating in the food service industry or the hospitality industry may have specific clauses in their respective insurance policies that relate to losses caused by viruses or alternative business interruption losses like event cancellations. Consequently, all business owners who have sustained financial losses due to COVID-19 are encouraged to examine their insurance contracts.
If you need legal assistance in these matters, please contact us for a free initial legal consultation.
INDIANA ATTORNEYS OFFERING A PERSONAL TOUCH
The Coronavirus is disrupting medical care and our legal process. Goodin Abernathy is using the special powers granted by Governor Holcomb and the Indiana Supreme Court to assist our clients with Health Care Powers of Attorney and General Powers of Attorney documents for our Indiana clients. Since many nursing homes and hospitals prohibit visitors, the Goodin Abernathy LLP lawyers are working around those obstacles. Goodin Abernathy prepares the documents for signature using the phone, internet and text messaging with same-day service.
Online vendors offering boiler plate legal documents typically want consumers to buy subscriptions – but not at Goodin Abernathy. To us, you aren’t a consumer, you’re a client.
If your relative, loved one or friend is sequestered or quarantined, our personal service allows them to stay in place: they do not need to leave their homes or facilities. Goodin Abernathy lawyers will transmit the documents electronically and guide you through obtaining signatures in front of a notary public. Some facilities have notary public services available on site; however, if not, our staff can authorize the signatures under Indiana’s new “remote notary” plan. Using video conferencing, Indiana is allowing notaries the option of electronically witnessing signatures. Indiana’s Supreme Court Order No. 20S-MS-236 allows notaries and other persons qualified to administer an oath in the State of Indiana and swear a witness remotely by audio-video communication technology, provided they can positively identify the witness.
Estate Planning Documents Our GA Lawyers Will Prepare Remotely
Health Care Power of Attorney
If you become incapacitated mentally or physically, this document identifies a person you grant legal authority for making your health care decisions.
If you become incapacitated, this document gives your medical care providers, loved ones and appointed Health Care Representative directions about the treatment you want. The Living Will is sometime referred to as an “Advanced Directive” or “Right-to-Die” form. Some people may not want heroic life-saving resuscitation if they are gravely ill.
General Power of Attorney or Durable Power of Attorney
If you become incapacitated, your elected representative assumes authority to make decisions and take financial action on your behalf. This could include signing checks to pay regular bills. It could also mean selling or transferring important property like your home or auto.
At Goodin Abernathy, we strive to provide:
1) Personal service with explanations of the documents you need
2) Set pricing
3) A fast response
4) Coaching for electronically transferring and signing the documents, and
5) Remote Notary service, if needed
Call us now for more information about your specific situation. We look forward to helping you!
What is the FFCRA and Do I qualify?What is the FFCRA and Do I qualify?
Effective April 1, 2020 and continuing through December 31, 2020, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (“FFCRA”) will require certain employers to provide their employees with paid sick leave and/or expanded Family Medical Leave for reasons related to COVID-19.
There are essentially 2 parts to the Act. Part 1 is an emergency expansion of the Family Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”). Part 2 requires certain employers to provide Federal Paid Sick Leave.
The Act applies to all employers with fewer than 500 employees. This includes both full and part-time employees. This number also includes dual employees, such as those provided by professional employment organizations (PEO’s) also known as staffing agencies. There may be exceptions for “extreme financial hardship,” but the Department of Labor has not yet produced any guidance for what that means.
The Act also provides for a “Distressed Small Business Exception,” which only applies to employers with 50 or less employees. Again, because this law is so new, there is little to no guidance from the Department of Labor as to who will qualify for this exception.
So, what does the FFCRA require employers to do?
Generally, all employers must provide their qualifying employees with:
Two weeks (up to 80 hours) of paid sick leave at the employee’s regular rate of pay where the employee is unable to work because the employee is quarantined either (1) pursuant to Federal, State, or local government order or advice of a health care provider, and/or (2) is experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and seeking a medical diagnosis; AND up to 10 additional weeks of paid sick leave at two-thirds the employee’s regular rate of pay because the employee is unable to work because of COVID illness or a bona fide need to care for an individual subject to quarantine (pursuant to Federal, State, or local government order or advice of a health care provider), or care for a child (under 18 years of age) whose school or child care provider is closed or unavailable for reasons related to COVID-19, and/or the employee is experiencing a substantially similar condition as specified by the Secretary of Health and Human Services, in consultation with the Secretaries of the Treasury and Labor.
FAQ’s about the FFCRA:
How does an employee qualify for these FFCRA benefits?
Some examples include:
- Being diagnosed with the COVID-19 virus.
- Having symptoms of the virus.
- Being required to be in self-quarantine.
- Being ordered by your doctor to self-quarantine.
- Having to care for a spouse or child who is infected with the virus.
- Another common example will be caring for a child whose school or daycare has been closed because of COVID-19 – Or having substantially similar condition based on guidance from the Secretary of Health and Human Services.
Can both parents claim paid leave under the FFCRA?
There is nothing in the law that suggests that both parents would not be entitled to paid leave if they otherwise qualify for the benefits.
Can my employer require me to use paid sick leave before paying benefits under the FFCRA?
It depends. The expanded benefits to FMLA do not kick in for the first 10 days, therefore you may be required to use unpaid sick leave to cover that gap. The mandatory sick leave would not require you to use accrued unpaid leave.
How much pay am I entitled to receive?
It depends on whether you are seeking the expanded benefits of the FMLA, or the mandatory paid sick leave. Normally, a qualifying employee is entitled to 12 weeks of unpaid leave under the FMLA. The new law expands that to include paid leave of two-thirds of base pay based on number of hours normally worked. The maximum is $200 per day, or $10,000 per employee, based on 12 weeks of eligibility.
The mandatory paid sick leave under the FFCRA is capped at $511 per day, with a total benefit of $5,110 per employee.
How are employers expected to pay for these FFCRA benefits?
The government has rolled out several plans to help small business employers pay for these new benefits. One option is a dollar for dollar tax credit for payments made. A second option is a small business loan through the Small Business Administration (SBA) to cover payroll costs. If certain conditions are met, and all of your employees remain on the payroll for a specified period, these loans will be forgiven (they don’t have to be paid back). Lastly, some employers may have business interruption insurance that could be applicable. Definitely check your policy to determine coverage.
Can my employer disclose my diagnosis of COVID-19?
Yes, under certain circumstances, there are exceptions to HIPPAA’s confidentiality requirements. For example, an employer can disclose such a diagnosis for the safety of your co-workers.
What if I contracted COVID-19 at work, will workers’ compensation cover my treatment?
There is much we don’t know about how the new laws will be interpreted, and whether a diagnosis of COVID-19 could be considered an occupational disease. Certainly, for those on the front lines fighting this disease, for instance health care workers, an argument could be made that it is a risk of the job.
If I have to provide these FFCRA benefits, my business will be forced to shut down. Are there any exceptions?
Yes. Small businesses with fewer than 50 employees may qualify for exemption from the requirement to provide leave due to school closings or child care unavailability if the leave requirements would jeopardize the viability of the business as a going concern.
If I have to take leave, can I get my job back when I return?
Yes. The new law requires employers with 25 or more employees to reinstatement after 12 weeks. If your employer has less than 25 employees they must “make reasonable effort” to reinstate an employee who has taken leave under the Act.
In these uncertain times, it is always best to know your rights. If you have questions about Coronavirus/COVID-19, and your entitlement to benefits under the new laws, please contact us for a free legal consultation. We are not currently taking in-person interviews in our efforts to avoid unnecessary spread of the virus, but we are always available for telephonic consultations.
Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and election has been one of the most divisive and contentious in recent memory. Ever since he took office, there have been questions and controversies popping up left and right. People have questioned the legitimacy of this election, speculated about his possible ties with Russia and Putin, and expressed dismay over this very active and noticeably unchecked presence on social media.
Since he became President, he has signed an Executive Order to ban refugees and immigrants; promised to build a wall between the US and Mexico; started measures to repeal Obamacare without proposing a solid plan for replacement; allowed coal mining companies to dump pollutants in streams; and has taken several other controversial steps. Needless to say, there are many people who want him out of office and talk of the possibility of an impeachment of President Trump.
What Is Impeachment?
Impeachment is a power granted to the Congress by the constitution to essentially put certain elected officials on trial. If the officials are proven guilty in this trial, they can be removed from the office and therefore impeached. The process involves both the legislative arm of the government while the executive branch isn’t involved.
The legislative body decides whether there are any grounds for impeachment before they hold a formal trial. This trial decides whether it can convict the official if they’re found guilty. This brings us to our next point:
On What Grounds Can A President Be Impeached?
You can’t just impeach the President because you dislike him or disagree with his political stance. In fact, the judicial department won’t even investigate the President until they have very serious allegations and enough proof to warrant an investigation. The grounds for impeachment are laid out in the constitution in Article II, Section 4:
“The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.”
As you can see, this statement is quite vague and doesn’t provide a clear definition of what can get the officials impeached. The House of Representatives decides what offences can fit that definition and that is very subjective. According to the former President Gerald Ford, the grounds for impeachment can be anything that the House of Representatives considers it to be at a given point of time or history. The grounds for impeachment today can be different from what they were 50 years ago. It’s generally understood that an official can be impeached if they:
• Use their Presidential power to profit or for personal gain.
• Exceed the powers of their Office as laid down by the Constitution.
• And engage in behavior completely unbecoming of their proper function in office.
It’s very difficult to find actions that can fit these categories of offences. For example, if Trump actually arrests someone and throws them in jail for being a political opponent or uses his influence as President to earn millions under the table, there might be grounds of impeachment.
What is the Process of Impeachment?
The impeachment proposal must go through a long process to be successful. The law is confusing and there are many safeguards in place to ensure the President can’t be impeached without due cause. Here’s a brief description of the process:
• The impeachment is first considered by the House Judiciary Committee. They will determine if there’s any cause of impeachment.
• If they find cause, the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee will initiate a formal inquiry into the issue of impeachment.
• After the inquiry is complete, the Committee will inform the Full House. They will explain they find impeachment warranted and that will trigger a debate in the Full House.
• The Full House will vote on every Article of Impeachment. If even one of the Articles of Impeachment is approved by a simple majority vote of the Full House, the President is considered informally impeached.
• The trial will then proceed to the senate. This is where they convict the President and finalize the impeachment.
• The President’s interests will be handled by his lawyers like in any court case. Some members of the House will be prosecutors. The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court will preside and the entire Senate will be the jury.
• The entire senate will debate and determine if the impeachment is valid. If 2/3 agree, the President will be removed from office.
DAPA & DACA on Hold
Unfortunately, an appellate court decided this week to keep the DAPA program and DACA expansion on hold while the case moves forward in court. So what does that mean for Latino immigrants and people from other parts of the world seeking immigration relief here in Indiana? Well, the decision wasn’t a surprise for advocates who were following the case closely– and the good news is the Obama administration can still appeal the ruling. So there is hope the U.S. Supreme Court will overturn the lower court.
We know the Obama administration wants to help immigrants – that’s why the new immigration opportunities were proposed. And there is still time left before a new President takes office. We also know the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled favorably for immigrants in other cases when the States tried to regulate or enforce immigration law—such as the case of Arizona v. US (2012) where the Supreme Court decided that Arizona couldn’t enforce much of their controversial “papers-please” law, SB1070. Many legal experts agree that the Supreme Court may open the program.
Also, news outlets are reporting that some members of Congress are proposing new immigration legislation in light of the court’s decision. So the immigration attorneys at Goodin Abernathy LLP are planning for the appeal and any new proposals.
For now it is important that everyone understands that this decision doesn’t affect other immigration programs, if you qualify for original DACA, for a U-visa, or a family petition you can still undertake these processes. Additionally, it is important to understand that parts of the executive action announced by the president a year ago are now in force (like the new deportation priorities) or in process (like the expansion of the provisional waiver).
What should you do if you are waiting on relief?
The advice hasn’t changed—get your documents in order to be prepared for any kind of new immigration relief. What kinds of documents? While we don’t know for sure what the requirements of any new relief would be exactly there are some documents which are likely to be part of the process, such as identification documents (birth certificates, passports, or other national IDs), documents which show that you have been living in the US (like bills, tax returns, bank statements, medical records, leases, or other papers), and documents which show your ties to the US (such as US citizen children’s birth certificates). Also, if you have ever been arrested or had to go to court you should try to get certified copies of those court or arrest records.
While we can’t predict the future or what will happen with politics, the immigration lawyers of Goodin Abernathy remain dedicated to keeping the Spanish-speaking community updated with the most recent information about any new immigration reform or benefits. If you have questions don’t hesitate to call—317-574-3090.
Volunteers with NOPAL Cultural promoting their Dia de los Muertos event last weekend at the Indy 11 game.
Our good friends at NOPAL Cultural have a special celebration of Day of the Dead planned for this Saturday, October 31, 2015 from 11am to 5pm at the Eiteljorg Museum in downtown Indianapolis. The event will highlight the exhibition of ofrendas and altares made by local artists and civic groups to honor their loved ones. There will be special musical performances, art projects, a marketplace and a Catrina parade. The event is free and open to the public. You can find out more at the event page on Facebook : https://www.facebook.com/events/770875693040591/ We hope to see you there!
How does your family remember your loved ones? How do you celebrate Day of the Dead? Let us know in the comments!