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Information Resources Division: 804-371-9141 sccinfo@scc.virginia.gov

 

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RICHMOND – Across the nation, November is the peak month for insurance claims related to vehicle collisions with deer. Virginia is among the states with the highest risk of these types of incidents. Mating season and migration contribute to a dramatic uptick in vehicle-deer collisions during the fall. To help avoid incidents, the State Corporation Commission’s (SCC) Bureau of Insurance reminds drivers to stay alert, particularly if traveling along tree-lined roadways when it’s dark.

“A deer in the roadway poses a threat to even the most careful driver,” said Virginia Insurance Commissioner Scott White. “As fall arrives, contact your insurance agent or company to determine if your automobile policy provides coverage for claims involving a collision with deer or other wildlife.”

Damage caused to your vehicle as a result of a collision with a deer or other animal typically is covered under the optional “other-than-collision” (also known as “comprehensive”) portion of your automobile policy. In addition to claims involving animals, some of the coverages provided by “other-than-collision” are damage resulting from theft, wind, hail and flood, as well as fire and vandalism. Keep in mind that if you have a liability-only policy, your policy may not cover your vehicle for damage resulting from a crash involving a deer or any other object.

Drivers can help prevent a collision with a deer by lowering their speed and staying alert. Nevertheless, some collisions are inevitable. In these cases, you should stay in your lane and brake as carefully as possible. Though jarring, a collision with a deer is often safer for the driver and any occupants – and for surrounding vehicles and their occupants – than swerving sharply and potentially hitting something else. If a driver attempts to avoid a collision by swerving – into a tree or ditch, for example – any damage may trigger coverages different than “other-than-collision.” Additionally, insurers may consider the driver to be at fault, which could cause premiums to increase.

Should you collide with a deer, notify law enforcement and your insurance company as soon as possible. When safe to do so, take pictures of the incident scene and any vehicle damage in the event you file an insurance claim. Don’t assume that your vehicle is safe to drive. Check for leaking fluid, tire damage, broken lights and other damage. When in doubt, call a tow truck.

The Bureau of Insurance stands ready to assist Virginians with their questions regarding auto and many other types of insurance. For more information, call the Bureau toll-free at 1-877-310-6560 or in Richmond at 804-371-9741 or visit its website at scc.virginia.gov/pages/Insurance.

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Contact: Ford Carson, 804-371-9141

RICHMOND – Mandatory 10-digit dialing (area code + phone number) will begin October 24, 2021, in Virginia area codes 804 and 276. The dialing changes are needed to accommodate the new three-digit dialing number – 988 – for the toll-free National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (NSPL).

The NSPL is a critical emergency resource that connects Americans in crisis to suicide prevention and mental health counselors. It can currently be reached any time day or night at 1-800-273-8255 (1-800-273-TALK). Dialing the NSPL will get even easier starting July 16, 2022, when a three-digit number – 988 – begins operation.  The new number was approved by the Federal Communications Commission last year.

Virginia is among 35 states and one U.S. territory that must start using 10-digit dialing to clear the way for use of the 988 national number next year. In the Richmond region (area code 804) and the Southwest Virginia region (area code 276), where local calls can now be made by dialing just 7 digits, many phone numbers start with "988." Since "988" will now be dedicated to NSPL, people in the affected area codes will now have to dial "804" or "276" at the beginning of all local calls. This is known as 10-digit dialing.  (Note: Using a "1" before the area code will be needed only for long-distance calls.)

Optional 10-digit dialing began in area codes 804 and 276 in April for all local calls. On and after October 24, 2021, 10-digit dialing will be required for all calls. Local calls dialed with only seven digits may not be completed, and a recording will inform callers that their call cannot be completed as dialed.

Little else will change for telephone users inside the 804 and 276 area codes. During and after the transition to 988, the NSPL will continue to be available at the longer phone number as well:  1-800-273-8255. Other three-digit dialing services such as 211, 711, 811, and 911 will not be affected. Telephone numbers, area code numbers, coverage areas and local call boundaries will remain the same.

Suicidepreventionlifeline.org is another resource for people in crisis, and 911 is available for emergency situations.

For more information about phone service changes resulting from the NSPL’s upcoming 988 number, visit the FCC website at fcc.gov/suicide-prevention-hotline or the SCC website at scc.virginia.gov/pages/988-Preparation.

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Contact: Katha Treanor, 804-371-9141

 
 

RICHMOND – The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has brought remote work, education, and medical care to the forefront, underscoring the need for all Virginians to stay digitally connected. As such, the State Corporation Commission (SCC) is partnering with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC), and the National Association of State Utility Consumer Advocates (NASUCA) to highlight “National Telephone Discount Lifeline Awareness Week,” September 20- 24, 2021.

Lifeline is a federal program that helps low-income consumers afford 21st century broadband. The program provides a $9.25 monthly discount on broadband service and a $7.25 monthly discount on voice service, with a limit of one benefit per household. You could be eligible if your income falls below a certain level – at or below 135% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines – or if you participate in one of these federal assistance programs:

  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
  • Medicaid
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
  • Federal Public Housing Assistance (FPHA)
  • Veterans Pension and Survivors Benefit

Participating companies can help with enrollment. You can also use a new option – the Lifeline National Verifier (www.checklifeline.org) – to check whether you are eligible and sign up for Lifeline. Since not all companies are required to offer Lifeline service, it’s a good idea to contact the companies you want to provide you with service to see if they participate.

To learn more about Lifeline and the Lifeline National Verifier, and to see if you are eligible, call 1-800-234-9473 or email lifelinesupport@usac.org or visit www.lifelinesupport.org or the FCC website at www.fcc.gov/lifeline-consumers. You may also contact Leah Sorini with Universal Service Administrative Co., the company that administers the Lifeline program, at 202-772-6274 or at LifelineProgram@usac.org.

Contact: Ford Carson, 804-371-9141

RICHMOND – Many Americans would face financial hardship if a wage earner died unexpectedly. Life Insurance Awareness Month – celebrated each September – is a reminder that life insurance can help protect your loved ones financially now and in the future.

The State Corporation Commission’s (SCC) Bureau of Insurance (Bureau) reminds Virginians that there are many factors to consider when determining if life insurance is right for you and your family.

“When considering your family’s financial future, review your existing financial resources, debts and other liabilities, as well as your family’s needs and goals,” said Virginia Insurance Commissioner Scott White. “Understand the different types of life insurance and shop around to compare prices and coverage.”

White encourages Virginians who already have life insurance to review their policies regularly and update their policies and beneficiaries so their coverage keeps pace with their changing circumstances. Life events such as a birth, divorce, remarriage, or other changes affecting your finances (such as a new mortgage or a new job) may trigger a need to update your life insurance policy.

If you do not have life insurance, shop around and understand the different types of policies available and the costs.

“Think about your family situation if you died tomorrow,” White said. Review your existing resources and consider the following: Does your spouse work? Do you have any sources of income other than salary? Do you have life insurance through your job?

Also consider the financial obligations that may fall upon family members if you die, such as a mortgage, business expenses, medical expenses, car loans or student loans. Also consider short-term and long-term goals such as your spouse’s retirement, providing care for a loved one or your children’s education.

White encourages Virginians to understand the types of life insurance available – term life or permanent – and how benefits are paid when you die. Term life insurance offers death benefit protection for a specific period of time. Benefits are paid only if the policyholder dies within the policy term. Term policies typically have lower premiums, but premiums may increase as you age or at the end of a specific “term.” Term policies do not build cash value, but some permanent life insurance policies such as whole life, adjustable/universal life or variable life insurance do build cash value over time. Permanent policies cover the insured for their entire life as long as premiums are paid when due.

Life insurance can do more than protect your spouse and dependents after your death. Some policies contain benefits that are usable during your lifetime. For example, a policyholder might be able to use the cash value accumulated in a permanent life insurance policy to pay expenses for education, retirement or emergencies.

What you pay for life insurance (premiums) depends largely on the type of policy chosen, your health status, age, gender, occupation, family health history and lifestyle. The following factors may impact your ability to obtain life insurance coverage or the premium you must pay: pre-existing conditions and chronic health problems such as diabetes, heart disease or cancer; poor health habits such as smoking or drinking; your driving record, and whether you engage in activities considered risky by the insurer such as rock climbing, motorcycle riding, sky diving, horseback riding or skiing.

Compare premiums, coverage and claims service when considering life insurance options. Contact the Bureau of Insurance in Richmond at 804-371-9741 or toll-free at 1-877-310-6560 for questions or to make sure the company or individual offering the coverage is licensed and in good standing. The Bureau offers a free Virginia Life Insurance Consumer Guide with answers to many life insurance questions on its website at scc.virginia.gov/pages/Tips,-Guides-Publications.

The National Association of Insurance Commissioners offers a free Life Insurance Policy Locator Service that can help consumers find lost life insurance policies and annuity contracts. From January 2017 through June 2021, the Locator Service matched 4,616 policies for Virginians with a total face value of $117,052,464. Nationwide, from November 2016 through June 2021, it matched 147,140 policies with a total face value of $3,775,837,551. To learn more about the Locator Service, visit https://eapps.naic.org/life-policy-locator/#/welcome.

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Contact: Katha Treanor, 804-371-9141

RICHMOND –The State Corporation Commission (SCC) is taking steps to create the Commonwealth Health Reinsurance Program (CHRP), which would begin on January 1, 2023. The CHRP is designed to increase affordability in the individual health care insurance market with a goal of decreasing premiums.

Pursuant to the Affordable Care Act, the CHRP requires federal approval of an application request for a State Innovation Waiver. Under the waiver, insurance carriers will be reimbursed for a proportion of the claims of covered individuals with high annual costs. In addition to these federal pass-through funds, the program will be funded through state general funds as authorized by the Virginia General Assembly.

A draft waiver application is being prepared for meeting the January 1, 2022 deadline to submit a request to the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services.

Information about the program is available on the SCC website at: www.scc.virginia.gov/pages/Reinsurance-Waiver. The draft application will be available for review and comment by October 1, 2021.

Two public hearings are scheduled on Thursday, October 14, 2021 – one at 10 a.m. and the second at 7 p.m. Both will be webcast.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the SCC will hold telephonic hearings for the receipt of public comments. Public witnesses wishing to provide oral comments must pre-register by October 12, 2021 in one of three ways:

  • Complete a public witness form for case number INS-2021-00110 on the SCC’s website at: http://scc.virginia.gov/pages/Webcasting
  • E-mail the same information (PDF version on the same website as above) to SCCInfo@scc.virginia.gov
  • Call the SCC at 804-371-9141 during regular business hours and provide your name and the phone number you wish the Commission to call to reach you during either hearing.

For those who prefer, there is an opportunity to provide comments in writing on the waiver application request. Written comments may be submitted through the SCC’s website by November 1, 2021, at https://scc.virginia.gov/casecomments/Submit-Public-Comments. If unable to submit electronically, send comments by U.S. Mail to Clerk of the SCC, c/o Document Control Center, P.O. Box 2118, Richmond, VA 23218-2118 and refer to case number INS-2021-00110.

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Contact: Ford Carson, 804-371-9141

RICHMOND – Natural disasters can take a major toll on businesses and sidetrack the best laid plans and projections. Many businesses do not reopen following a natural disaster and some fail within one year after disaster strikes.

Whether you are an individual or a business, you are vulnerable to natural disasters that may include hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, wildfires and earthquakes. Even disasters far away can impact your business by disrupting supply chains and communications. Small businesses are particularly vulnerable when it comes to natural disasters since they often have fewer resources, locations and employees to help them become operational again.

Advance planning is essential to safeguard employees, protect assets and minimize disruptions to your business. Having an emergency disaster plan and a business continuity plan in place, as well as adequate insurance coverage, can reduce the risk to a business and help it recover faster.

The State Corporation Commission's (SCC) Bureau of Insurance (Bureau) strongly encourages small businesses to review their insurance coverage regularly and adjust it, as needed. When evaluating a business’s insurance needs, consider the possibility of a natural disaster. Know what your policies cover and how much money you may need to make repairs and pay employees, creditors and yourself in the event of a disaster. "How you plan for and respond to disasters can determine whether your business survives," said Virginia Insurance Commissioner Scott A. White. “Protect yourself and your business against the unexpected by having the right insurance coverage and updating it regularly.”

Consider whether additional or separate coverages are needed. For example, separate insurance coverage may be needed for certain types of disasters such as floods and earthquakes because these typically are not covered by standard business insurance policies. Similarly, businesses may need to buy separate automobile insurance for cars and other vehicles because standard business policies cover only real property. Also consider business interruption insurance, which may help cover the loss of income that a business suffers after a disaster.

Small business owners also can take additional steps to protect their employees, property and operations, such as the following:

  • Determine whether the business is in an area at high risk for certain types of disasters, such as floods or fires.
  • Develop and update business continuity plans to share with employees. Make sure the plan includes current employee contact information, backup vendors or suppliers and a temporary relocation site.
  • Develop a system to communicate with employees, vendors, suppliers and customers and procedures for work processes and payroll during a disaster or business interruption. Keep in mind that employees might be working from different locations and that internet and other critical business services might not be working normally.
  • Have disaster provisions at the workplace, along with evacuation maps and access to a working radio and mobile apps to receive instructions from local authorities.
  • Compile an inventory of computer hardware as well as other assets and equipment and keep it in a safe place. Back up all personal and company data on a regular basis in case information is lost during a disaster.
  • Keep copies of important records (such as building plans, insurance policies, bank accounts, employee contact information and other priority documents) in a safe, waterproof and fireproof place. Keep a set of records online (employing strong security measures) or at an off-site location.
  • During a disaster, depending on the risks, ask employees to shelter in place or evacuate immediately.
  • After a disaster strikes your business, contact your insurance agent or company immediately and ask what information is needed to file a claim.

The Bureau of Insurance offers free guides specifically geared to businesses. To learn more, contact the Consumer Services Section of the Bureau of Insurance Property and Casualty Division toll-free at 1-877-310-6560 or in Richmond at 804-371-9185 or visit scc.virginia.gov/pages/Insurance.

For additional emergency preparedness information relating to disasters, visit vaemergency.gov.

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Contact: Katha Treanor, 804-371-9141

RICHMOND – The Virginia State Corporation Commission (SCC) has approved in part and denied in part an environmental rate adjustment clause (E-RAC or rider). The rider recovers environmental compliance expenses associated with federal rules regulating the disposal of coal ash at two of the company’s power plants located in West Virginia.

These power plants, the Amos and Mountaineer plants, are coal-fired generation facilities that produce electricity to serve Appalachian Power’s Virginia customers. The SCC reviews and approves the share of those environmental compliance expenses that Virginia customers pay through electric rates.

The SCC approved a $27.44 million Virginia revenue requirement for the first year of the rider. The rider will be adjusted annually to reflect actual and projected expenses associated with compliance costs. The rider will increase the monthly bill of a typical Appalachian Power residential customer by $2.17 starting October 1.

The SCC denied approximately $4.2 million of expenses associated with Appalachian Power's proposed investment in the Amos and Mountaineer power plants to comply with the Environmental Protection Agency's Steam Electric Effluent Limitations Guidelines ("ELG"). The Commission found that Appalachian Power did not meet its burden of proving the reasonableness and prudence of these costs at this time.

In its final order, the Commission said, “We find it is critically important to analyze the overall impact of this investment on both customer rates and reliability, and that [for this specific expense] the instant record is currently lacking in both regards.”

The Commission reiterated in its order its sensitivity to the effects of these rate increases particularly considering the economic impacts associated with COVID-19. The Commission, however, said it must follow the laws applicable to any rate case as well as the findings of fact supported by the evidence.

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Contact: Ken Schrad, 804-371-9858

Case Number PUR-2020-00258
Order Granting Rate Adjustment Clause

RICHMOND – The 2021 Atlantic hurricane season already has had a busy start with eight named storms and one reaching hurricane strength. The State Corporation Commission’s (SCC) Bureau of Insurance (Bureau) reminds Virginians that late August to early October is often the most dangerous and active time for tropical storm activity – and the potential property damage those storms can cause.

If you have not already reviewed your property insurance, the Bureau urges Virginians to do so now as the hurricane season is underway. Whether you’re a homeowner, renter or business, protect yourself financially by making sure you have the coverage you need before disaster strikes.

Hurricane season officially runs from June 1 to November 30. Even areas hundreds of miles from the coast can be impacted by the high winds, heavy rains and flooding that accompany hurricanes and tropical storms. You may have a difficult time increasing your insurance coverage once a hurricane develops in the Atlantic and until the threat has passed, so review your coverage now and make any necessary changes.

“Disasters can happen anywhere and anytime. Don’t wait until it’s too late to protect yourself and your property from a hurricane or other disaster,” said Virginia Insurance Commissioner Scott A. White. “Assess your risk now and make sure you have the coverage you need before a storm begins to brew.

The Bureau encourages Virginians to talk to their insurance agent or company if they have questions about what is and is not covered, how to reduce property damage and what to do if damage does occur.

Most homeowners, renters and commercial insurance policies do not cover losses due to flooding. Talk to your insurance agent about flood insurance or visit the National Flood Insurance Program’s website at www.floodsmart.gov to learn more about protecting your home or business from damage due to floods, surface water or storm surge. There is typically a 30-day waiting period for a new flood insurance policy to take effect.

The Bureau also encourages Virginians to create a detailed home inventory with photos, videos and serial numbers of your belongings. The National Association of Insurance Commissioners’ (NAIC) free smartphone app can facilitate this process. Place your insurance policies and home inventory in a safe place and take them with you if you must evacuate. These records will contain your policy numbers and the phone numbers of your insurance companies in case you have questions or need to file a claim.

If your property is damaged by a hurricane, contact your insurance agent or company as soon as possible. To protect your property from further damage, make necessary emergency repairs. Document all damage to your property and include photographs, notes and repair-related receipts.

Policyholders should consider the following questions related to potential hurricane damage when reviewing their policies:

  • Does your homeowners policy contain a special deductible for wind or hurricane losses? These deductibles are applied separately from any other deductible on a homeowners policy and may be written as a flat amount, such as $1,000, or applied to a loss as a percentage of the insurance coverage on the dwelling.
     
  • Does your homeowners policy provide coverage for such things as sewer backup? Most homeowners policies do not provide coverage for sewer backup, but policyholders may purchase additional coverage for this.
     
  • Are vehicles covered in the event of a hurricane or windstorm? If you have other-than-collision (or comprehensive) coverage for your vehicle under your automobile policy, your vehicles generally will be covered for flood and wind damage.

To learn more, contact the Bureau of Insurance Property and Casualty Division toll-free at 1-877-310-6560 or in Richmond at 804-371-9185. The Bureau’s specially trained staff can assist consumers with their insurance-related questions and concerns. The Bureau also offers free consumer guides for homeowners and commercial property owners with information about what to do when a disaster strikes. These are available on the disaster readiness section of its website at scc.virginia.gov/pages/Disaster-Readiness.

For additional emergency preparedness information relating to hurricanes and other types of disasters, visit the Virginia Department of Emergency Management website at www.vaemergency.gov.

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Contact: Katha Treanor, 804-371-9141

RICHMOND – Starting September 11, 2021, permissive 10-digit dialing will begin for Virginians living in the 757 area code region. This is the first step in a February 2020 relief plan approved by the State Corporation Commission (SCC) to phase in the new 948 area code. During the next six months, local calls can be made with either 7 or 10 digits, and all calls that are local will continue to be local even though you dial 10 digits.

The 757 area code encompasses the vast majority of the Hampton Roads metropolitan area including Williamsburg, Franklin and Suffolk in the west, and Virginia Beach, Norfolk and the Eastern Shore to the east.

In the coming months, the inventory of available phone numbers with "757" as the area code is expected to run out. The SCC approved an overlay, which is the addition of another area code (948) to the same geographic region served by an existing area code (757). Beginning May 9, 2022, new telephone lines or services may be assigned numbers using the new 948 area code.

The good news: residents and businesses that already have phone numbers will get to keep them. No one’s 757 phone number will change.

Consumers should start practicing dialing phone numbers using all 10 digits because, beginning April 9, 2022, all local calls made in the 757 area code will not be connected if seven digits are dialed.

You must use 10 digits (3-digit area code + the 7-digit telephone number) as of next April 9. One step people can do to prepare for the switch is to update their cell phone contacts now, so that phone numbers they call regularly already will have the area code attached.

For more information on this topic, see: scc.virginia.gov/pages/757-Area-Code-Exhaust-Relief-FAQ

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Contact: Ford Carson, 804-371-9141

RICHMOND – August 11 is the day recognized in the Commonwealth to remind Virginians of the importance of always contacting Virginia 811 before you dig. Virginia 811 is the one-call notification center to report planned excavations in the Commonwealth created by Virginia’s utilities to protect their underground facilities.

Contacting Virginia 811 is a simple, no-cost process, with two convenient ways to do so. You can go online at www.va811.com to disclose a digging project taking place at a single address; this online service is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. You may also call 8-1-1 Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., excluding legal state and national holidays. Emergency notification service is available 24/7, 365 days a year as well.

Know What’s Below. Contact Virginia 811 before you dig, and Dig with C.A.R.E!

C.A.R.E. means:

  • Contact Virginia 811 before you dig.
  • Allow the required time for marking.
  • Respect and protect the marks.
  • Excavate carefully.

Help keep Virginia’s underground utility infrastructure damage-free and our communities, business districts and environment safe by taking this important first step.

To learn more about “Digging with C.A.R.E.” and Virginia’s underground utility damage prevention program, contact the SCC’s Division of Utility and Railroad Safety at 804-371-9980 or visit scc.virginia.gov/pages/Utility-Railroad-Safety.

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Contact: Ford Carson, 804-371-9141

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