Florida Clears Insurance Agency Reps to Work Remotely Amid Coronavirus

By | March 17, 2020

Florida’s state of emergency due to the rapid spread of coronavirus in the state, and throughout the country, has created a need for many workers to work remotely. However, certain licensed insurance employees were restricted from doing so by a Florida law that required they conduct business from their agency offices.

In response, Florida Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, who oversees the Florida Department of Financial Services, has issued a directive allowing Florida agency customer service representatives who would otherwise be restricted from conducting business outside of a licensed agency to do so given the current circumstances.

“In order to afford flexibility to licensees who are quarantined or whose offices are subject to closure due to the COVID-19, the Department of Financial Services will not enforce provisions of [Florida Statutes] until May 8, 2020, unless this order is extended by subsequent Directive of the Chief Financial Officer,” the order states.

The law applies to Florida 4-40 Resident Customer Service Representative (CRs) licenses and was enacted in 1990. It allows salaried employees of insurance agents or agencies in Florida to transact insurance business under the supervision of a licensed and appointed general lines agent. Employees holding the 4-40 license are unable to transact insurance outside of the office of the agency they are employed by, cannot be employed by more than one general lines agent or agency at any given time and must be housed in the office of the agent or agency. The CRs can also only solicit business within the agency office or by phone from the office, according to DFS, which is charged with regulating the sale of travel insurance and other insurance products within the state of Florida.

Patronis’ order specifically references the two Florida Statutes that say insurance customer representatives “shall not engage in transacting insurance outside of the office of his or her agent or agency” and says insurance customer representatives must be housed in the “actual confines of the office of the agent or agency whom he or she represents,” among other stipulations.

By recommendation from the Center for Disease Control (CDC), companies nationwide have begun allowing employees to work remotely in an effort to slow the spread of the strain of coronavirus known as COVID-19. However, Florida insurance employees carrying 4-40 licenses could have faced disciplinary action for doing so prior to the waiver in the directive.

Patronis said in the directive that under Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ emergency order, government agency heads have certain authority to waive statutory and administrative provisions “to the extent strict compliance with such provisions would prevent, hinder, or delay necessary action in coping with the ongoing emergency.”

Florida Association for Insurance Agents (FAIA) President Jeff Grady said several member agencies reported they are now working remotely and that many agencies called or emailed to inquire about a waiver for 4-40 licensees.

FAIA worked with CFO Patronis’ office over the last week in coming up with a solution that allows insurance professionals to perform their work at home, if necessary, the association said.

Grady said it was hard to estimate a percentage of how many of their members are now working remotely but noted “the number is growing rapidly.”

“We have debated the discontinuance of this license for several years, particularly given its unique status within the era of state license reciprocity,” Grady said. “I am hopeful this disaster will illuminate the need for Florida to do away with the 4-40 license.”

FAIA representatives themselves have made adjustments to work from home and said they will continue to be available to members via phone, email or through its online community.

There are other issues facing insurance agents as the coronavirus epidemic continues to go on. FAIA is communicating with the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation regarding the potential for an order that would temporarily postpone policy non-renewals and/or cancellations, and Grady said FAIA is also receiving many inquiries from agents regarding business interruption insurance. The association has conveyed that message to OIR as well.

“FAIA is constantly communicating with regulators and cabinet officials to address insurance issues caused by COVID-19,” he said.

About Amy O'Connor

O'Connor is the Southeast editor for Insurance Journal and associate editor of MyNewMarkets.com. More from Amy O'Connor

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