With a Florida Statewide Shutdown DeSantis Could Provide Relief for Florida Small Business Owners Seeking Insurance Coverage for Lost Income due to COVID19

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Photo via pxfuel.com. CC0.

In the midst of the COVID-19 healthcare crisis, Florida’s Governor Ron DeSantis has justified his reluctance to order a statewide shutdown because, as he sees it, the coronavirus is not affecting every county in the state.

But, truth be told, the virus has already impacted almost every Florida business owner. There may not be reported confirmed cases in every county yet, but the effects have already been felt statewide.

Florida restaurants and bars are seeing business slow to a trickle. With every report of further confirmed cases from the panhandle to South Beach, the Florida tourism industry is facing one of the worst years since the BP Oil Spill. Seniors are staying home and Facetiming with their families instead of frequenting their favorite restaurants. Retail outlets and small businesses alike have shut their doors to protect workers and customers in an attempt to slow the spread of this deadly virus and protect themselves from any possible liability. 

Regardless of the remaining counties without confirmed cases, DeSantis knows the effects of the pandemic have already been felt across the Sunshine State. After all, it is why the governor requested a federal disaster declaration.

However, if Gov. DeSantis would simply make an official declaration of a Statewide Shutdown of all non-essential Florida businesses, many small businesses might also be able to seek more relief from their own insurance companies in addition to the taxpayer funded aid packages working their way through the U.S. Congress.

According to Brian D. Barr, Esq and Louis Niedelman, Esq., of Cooper Levenson, many businesses have ‘Business Income Interruption Coverage’. This insurance may allow a claim which “would be equivalent to the loss of revenue due to the loss event.”

But, there is a qualifier: Did the business voluntarily shutdown out of a concern for their employees and customers or was it required to close to comply with a governmental order?  That difference will determine  if a claim can be filed or not.

Many policies will cover loss of income from a direct physical loss to an insured’s property by a covered peril.  The amount of this insurance coverage can be found in the declaration page. The claim itself would be equivalent to the loss of revenue due to the loss event.

There will be important insurance questions to answer such as: did businesses voluntarily impose work restrictions causing a loss of income?  Or, was the loss of income caused when the business was required to close by state or local decree? Were restaurants closed or limited to take-out orders or completely shuttered while supermarkets remained  open?

In order to prove insured losses, insurers must look to the local, state and federal authorities’ declarations to determine whether or not an entity was required to close or did so voluntarily. An order from DeSantis could simplify this process considerably.

Similarly, as explained in the National Law Review on March 23rd, if a business owner’s insurance includes ‘Civil Authority Coverage’ they may be able to file a claim for their losses. But, they can only file for this insurance coverage if the Civil Authorities restrict their ability to operate their business.    

The novel coronavirus and COVID-19 have affected the entire state. Florida businesses are already hurting. And as countless healthcare professionals are warning, the only way to slow the spread of the virus across the entire state and avoid a tragic overload of hospital and healthcare workers is to distance residents from one another.

In addition to providing a much needed slowdown of transmission to allow Florida hospitals to better manage the onslaught of cases, a statewide shutdown truly has tremendous potential to help Florida’s economy by helping businesses survive this crisis.

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