Insurance Advocacy

Take action on insurance issue for nonprofits now

Insurance has become a significant challenge for many nonprofits and charities as a result of COVID-19.

Nonprofits have barely survived the first phase of the pandemic only to find themselves struggling to operate or re-open because of skyrocketing insurance costs, COVID-related exclusions, and an excessive burden of liability falling on volunteer boards of directors. Organizations that have followed public health guidelines in good faith now need government to act to ensure nonprofits are not subject to excessive liability and drawn-out, expensive lawsuits.

The Government of Ontario must take immediate steps to provide “Good Samaritan” protection to our sector, making nonprofits – and their directors, officers, employees, and volunteers – not liable for COVID-related damages if they operate in accordance with all applicable emergency and public health guidance. ONN’s briefing note, Liability and insurance issues facing the Ontario nonprofit sector in the wake of COVID-19 further discusses this recommendation.

Key messages to share with your MPP:

  1. Ontario cannot re-open successfully without the nonprofit sector, and this won’t happen unless action is taken to address the insurance challenge
  2. The Ontario government provide “Good Samaritan” liability protection to nonprofits that have followed all public health guidelines
  3. This issue cannot wait for the fall legislative session and must be solved immediately

Actions to take

  1. Call: Find your MPP’s constituency office phone number.

  2. Email: Use our template below or create your own to share your key messages with your MPP, copying the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport at minister.mtcs@ontario.ca and the Premier at premier@ontario.ca

  3. Spread the word: Enlist other local nonprofits and charities in the action. Email your local community newspapers, call your local talk radio show and push out your points on social media (being sure to tag your local MPP)

  4. Share this action alert: Let friends and colleagues who care about thriving communities know about this issue.

  5. Use our email template
    • See our easy-to-tailor email template at the end of this page for your organization to personalize, or create your own. 

Don’t forget to send a copy to ONN at melanie@theonn.ca so we can gather sector perspectives!

Important information

  • Over twenty years ago, the Ontario government passed the Donation of Food Act to ensure that those who donate food to food banks and other nonprofits were not held liable for damages related to the consumption of that food. This legislation enabled restaurants and shops to make better use of surplus food and for food banks to distribute that food, as long as they did so in good faith
  • After SARS in the early 2000s, the Ontario government passed changes to the Health Protection and Promotion Act to offer “Good Samaritan” protection to health professionals
  • On July 5, the London Free Press broke the story of nonprofit challenges with COVID-related insurance and the potential impact on Ontario communities
  • On July 29, the Hamilton Spectator published a column outlining legal concerns from youth sports leagues related to COVID-19 and the lack of insurance coverage

The Province of British Columbia as well as many American states are passing laws to help nonprofits with COVID-related insurance challenges

  • The BC Government created a ministerial order that protects amateur sport organizations, their employees and volunteers from liability
  • Governors in two states have issued executive orders (Arkansas and Alabama) and legislators in a dozen have enacted or are considering liability legislation. Oklahoma, Utah, and Wyoming passed laws that limit claims against certain defined entities for exposure to or contraction of COVID-19 that may have stemmed from being on-site
  • The North Carolina COVID-19 Recovery Act gives liability protections to health care facilities, health care providers, and volunteer organizations; a separate bill awaiting the Governor’s signature would extend the immunity to individuals, nonprofit board members, and volunteers
  • Legislation in Georgia, Minnesota, Mississippi (H.1783/S. 3049), and Pennsylvania would extend protections explicitly to nonprofit organizations and for-profit businesses. A measure in South Carolina covers “any for profit or [nonprofit] business entity, organized in any form whatsoever.” Louisiana lawmakers would go the furthest to apply protections only for nonprofits, including religious institutions, leaving out for-profit businesses

Public and private funders may find it more challenging to role out COVID emergency funds and other support if nonprofits cannot secure adequate insurance

  • ONN has heard from some funders that the inability for nonprofits to secure adequate insurance can be a barrier to flowing COVID relief dollars (or any other funding) to Ontario nonprofits
  • This may have ripple effects for the 14+ provincial ministries that provide funding through transfer payment agreements to up to 15,000 nonprofits that deliver services on behalf of government. Even for small agreements, the Province typically requires evidence of $2 million in liability insurance as well as any other insurance that a “prudent person” carrying out the project might carry

Nonprofit boards may resign en masse if they cannot manage their liability, leaving many communities in the lurch

  •  At the end of the day, it is volunteer boards of directors that are personally liable for the acts and omissions of a nonprofit. These boards require affordable insurance that helps them manage the risks and liabilities of their organizations. If organizations cannot secure insurance, board directors may resign
  • ONN has already heard of organizations facing board recruitment and retention challenges related to COVID-19 insurance

Template email and sample messaging

Sample tweets and posts – don’t forget to tag your MPP

Urgent action required: insurance!

  1. Call on the @ONgov to provide immediate “Good Samaritan” liability protection to nonprofits who have followed public health guidelines
  2. Contact your MPP
  3. Spread the word

https://theonn.ca/ontario-nonprofits-call-to-action-call-and-email-your-mpp/
#onpoli #COVID19 @o_n_n

Email template

Subject: Urgent: Providing “Good Samaritan” COVID-related liability protection to nonprofits

Dear MPP [NAME],

I am writing to you on behalf of (Name of organization, brief description of your work) for your commitment to ensure the Ontario Government take immediate steps to provide “Good Samaritan” COVID-related liability protection to nonprofits if they have followed all public health guidelines.

[Add key messages from above about why it matters to your organization]

There is precedent: The Ontario government has provided “Good Samaritan” relief to nonprofits operating in good faith before. For example, the Donation of Food Act ensured that those who donate food to food banks and other nonprofits were not held liable for damages related to the consumption of that food, and changes to the Health Protection and Promotion Act after SARS offered “Good Samaritan” protection to health professionals. 

To be clear, we are not looking for protection from litigation if nonprofits have been negligent and not followed public health guidelines. We are looking to the Ontario government to protect nonprofits that have acted in good faith as they re-open and follow public health guidelines.

Nonprofits have barely survived the first phase of the pandemic only to find themselves struggling to operate or re-open because of skyrocketing insurance costs, COVID-related exclusions, and an excessive burden of liability falling on volunteer boards of directors. 

If the Ontario government waits to act before the fall Legislative session, it may be too late for many organizations.

Ontario’s 58,000 nonprofits contribute $50 billion to the province’s GDP to the economy and they employ one million workers, and connect five million Ontarians to meaningful work as volunteers.

We are calling on your support to ensure nonprofits can continue to serve Ontario communities during the pandemic, and beyond. 

Sincerely,

(Name, title)

(organization name)