Reps. Kenyatta, Snyder urge legislature to provide COVID-19 relief for Pa. businesses, unveil new bill to expand business interruption policies

HARRISBURG, May 4 – Today state Reps. Malcolm Kenyatta, D-Phila., and Pam Snyder, D-Greene/Fayette/Washington, held a news conference at the state Capitol, urging the state legislature to immediately vote on H.B. 1223, a bill they recently introduced that would expand business interruption policies to acknowledge losses suffered during the governor’s disaster declaration.

The legislators said that their bill seeks to provide business interruption insurance coverage to establishments that suffered financial loss due to pandemic closings by aiming to:

  • Clarify that business interruption policies in effect as of the date of the governor’s disaster declaration (March 6, 2020) include coverage of perils related to COVID-19.
  • Allow insurers to receive reimbursement for business interruption insurance claims paid due to COVID-19.
  • Provide a mechanism to make funds immediately available for such reimbursement.

Kenyatta, who represents parts of North Philadelphia, said protecting these businesses would, in turn, protect the livelihoods of countless residents across Pennsylvania.

“Countless local businesses — generationally owned and community mainstays — have been forced to permanently shutter because of the devastating effects of this economic crisis. This has also resulted in loss of income for both family business owners and employees,” Kenyatta said. “We can no longer be idle in protecting working people, and our bill would provide these small businesses reeling from this devastation the vital lifeline they desperately need to protect livelihoods.”

Snyder, who represents the southwestern region of Pennsylvania, echoed Kenyatta’s sentiments, and reiterated the need for an immediate vote on their bill that stands to protect independent businesses.

“So many of our local businesses have been – and continue to be – severely impacted by the ongoing pandemic,” Snyder said. “We’ve also heard from several businesses that their insurance providers would not cover business interruption losses, making their situations all the more dire. Our bill would provide the necessary clarification for them to recoup any pandemic-related business disruption losses and help these businesses recover faster.”

Joining the legislators in their call urging an immediate vote on their bill were Cat and Cecil Cannon, co-owners of Mindful Hospitality Group and St. Clair Social, and statewide representatives from The Hospital Industry Reimagined Security Trust, who gave firsthand accounts of COVID-19’s adverse impacts on businesses across Pennsylvania, including their own.

"The issue of business interruption insurance disproportionately impacts small, independent businesses. Of the nearly 8 million commercial insurance policies that include business interruption coverage, 90 percent were for small businesses, defined as having 100 or fewer employees. Fixing this problem will give a much-needed lifeline to small businesses in the hospitality industry and beyond,” Cat Cannon said.

Today’s event comes months after Kenyatta and Snyder hosted Business Interrupted: a virtual discussion highlighting the impacts of COVID-19 on businesses across Pennsylvania, which featured testimony from experts in the restaurant industry regarding the need to include the impacts of business losses because of COVID-19 in business coverage insurance claims. 

House Bill 1223 currently awaits approval from the House Insurance Committee.