BIG Announces Support for Legislation Providing Relief to Thousands of Businesses Nationwide during COVID-19

Bill introduced by Rep. Mike Thompson would protect business owners fighting to keep their doors open during pandemic, saving thousands of American jobs

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Tuesday July 28, 2020

WASHINGTON, DC. – Today the Business Interruption Group (BIG), an alliance of thousands of businesses across every sector of the economy, announced its strong support for H.R. 7412, the Business Interruption Relief Act of 2020. The legislation, introduced by US Representative Mike Thompson (CA-05), would establish a temporary voluntary program for support of insurers providing business interruption insurance coverage during the COVID-19 pandemic. As business owners fight to keep their doors open during an unprecedented economic downturn, this critical piece of legislation would provide a necessary safety net, protecting thousands of American jobs.

Thompson’s bill proposes a voluntary program that will encourage insurers and businesses to settle key disputes over business interruption insurance coverage, helping make available policy benefits for losses associated with the Civil Authority Shutdowns from COVID-19. Just as insurer pandemic payouts during the SARS outbreak did in 2002-2003, this proposed program would help send Americans back to work and get them off unemployment lines.

“For years businesses like mine, and across America, set aside money each year and paid to be protected in the event of a shutdown. This legislation, if passed, will avoid years of litigation and money spent battling lawyers over the wording of these insurance policies. If passed, it will help all of us who relied upon the protection we paid for to get back to contributing to the economy,” said Thomas Keller, Chef and Co-Founder of the Business Interruption Group.

“The restaurant and nightlife industry have been financially devastated for months as a result of the Covid-19 mandatory shutdown. This legislation provides a lifeline to the industry and has the chance to help save small businesses throughout America, which are vital to our nation’s economic and social fabric,” said Andrew Rigie, Executive Director, New York City Hospitality Alliance.

Thompson’s legislation would establish a voluntary program for insurers who sold business interruption policies with some form of a virus exclusion, granting insurers the option to waive COVID-19 defenses and exclusions to benefit the policyholder, in exchange for federal reimbursement for the insurer’s payment and claim expense.

“So many businesses in our district and across our nation have been forced to temporarily close their doors to help keep employees and customers safe during the Coronavirus-related shutdowns,” said Rep. Mike Thompson at the time of introduction. “And when those businesses have filed claims under previously purchased business interruption insurance, they are often having difficulty getting those claims honored. This leads to confusion and a tough economic hit for businesses that are already struggling. That is why I introduced the Business Interruption Relief Act, a bill to help businesses get their claims honored, cut through the red tape of litigation, and support our economic recovery. We have to help the businesses who are working hard to follow local guidance and keep their doors open in the long term.”

On March 29, President Donald Trump, in a telephone conference with BIG founders and a follow-up press conference stated, “You have people that have never asked for business-interruption insurance, and they’ve been paying a lot of money for a lot of years for the privilege of having it. And then when they finally need it, the insurance company says, ‘We’re not going to give it.’ We can’t let that happen.”

On May 21, 2020, the House Small Business Subcommittee on Innovation and Workforce Development, led by Chairman Jason Crow (CO-06), conducted a virtual forum to consider issues facing small businesses trying to make business interruption insurance claims related to COVID-19. John Houghtaling, a New Orleans attorney who founded BIG, testified at the hearing stating, “If you are an American worker, chances are you work for a business that has taken out some of its profit every year and paid it to an insurance company for payroll expenses during a civil authority shutdown. American business expected protection on the eve of these shutdowns. For many of them, there was no exclusion for
pandemic or viruses. The proverbial lifeboat was paid for, and yet when American businesses made claims on these policies, they have been uniformly denied regardless of the property language.”

On May 29, the Business Interruption Group staged a one-minute black-out of Times Square billboards in cooperation with the Times Square Alliance