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All posts by Duane Long

ERIE Agents Giving Back

ERIE Agents Giving Back

ERIE Agents Giving BackNo one could have predicted exactly how much our lives would be impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Schools became virtual classrooms. Businesses started operating remotely. Curbside pickup became the only way to enjoy your favorite local restaurant. Even graduations and birthdays became drive-by celebrations.

It’s cliché, but it’s true: All that social distancing made us realize how much we rely on each other.

Enter “ERIE Agents Giving Back” – Erie Insurance’s effort to make more than $2 million available for local COVID-19 relief. This companywide effort launched on April 20, 2020 – the date of ERIE’s 95th anniversary – to give a boost to agents and employees already doing good work in their communities.

Through the project, agents fed frontline workers and first responders, supported local businesses and gave money to charities in need. Independent ERIE agents shared nearly 2,000 stories on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn about how they were showing their support during these unprecedented times.

Here are just a few examples of agents giving back to their communities. Want to see highlights from your hometown? Search #ERIEAgentsGivingBack on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.

PIGGING OUT FOR A GOOD CAUSE

Michael Clavette, an ERIE agent from Clavette Insurance Agency Inc. in Wisconsin, decided to team up with a local restaurant, The Bosch Tavern. “We brainstormed quite a bit as to how to best leverage ERIE Agents Giving Back,” Clavette said. “Rather than handing out meals or $1,000 in gift cards, we took a different approach.” The agency purchased 1,000 pounds of pork to make pulled pork sandwiches. Then, the Bosch Tavern hosted a drive-thru fundraiser where all proceeds and tips from the pork sandwiches benefitted the local Hunger Task Force in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

The creative project supported both a local business and the community. Together, they were able to turn $1,000 into a $5,695 donation to help community members in need. “It was really important for us to get extra food to those who really needed it,” Clavette said.

THINKING OUTSIDE THE BOX

The John Hansen Agency in Pennsylvania wanted to find a way to get supplies to senior citizens who were fearful of traveling to the grocery store. Staff member Sandi Summers volunteered to host a Blessing Box at the end of her driveway.

Once constructed, the agency stocked the box with fresh foods, perishable items and household essential items. Seniors could visit the box during the day, Monday through Friday. At the end of each day, Summers would remove the items, clean the box, sanitize and get ready for the next day.

When it started in the middle of April, the intention was to help senior citizens. With additional support from the community, the Blessing Box remains in operation today open to the general public. “I’m really proud of how the entire community has rallied around the box,” Summers said. “I’m so glad that ERIE gave us the opportunity to start the Blessing Box, and I’m delighted to still be receiving donations from community members to keep it going.”

DOING THE RIGHT THING FOR MORE THAN 95 YEARS

The Hunger Task Force and Blessing Box projects are just two of the countless ways ERIE and its independent agents are giving back to local communities. Follow #ERIEAgentsGivingBack on social media or read more on our Eriesense blog.

At ERIE, “Above All in Service” isn’t just our company motto. It’s the spirit that drives every decision we make. That’s why we partner with the best local, independent agents in the business – because they know and love your local communities just as much as you do.

The “ERIE Agents Giving Back” project might have wrapped up, but our commitment to the Golden Rule never ends. See all the ways ERIE is supporting our customers and communities during these challenging times.

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Car Sense

How to Plan a Road Trip Vacation

2020 has been full of winding roads, and the year is only halfway done. Now that summer is officially in full swing, many families are preparing for some rest and relaxation. But with travel restrictions, social distancing and other COVID-19 mandates in place, many vacations look different than originally planned.

For many families, that may mean loading up the car and staying closer to home.

Check out our tips for how to pack smart, plan a route and, most importantly, how to prepare for any mishaps that might come your way.

PACK SMART

  • Use a checklist. We all hate the feeling of forgetting to pack something. To avoid leaving any essentials at home, create a list a few weeks before you leave — and add to it as you think of new items. Then, pull out the list as you start packing and check off items as you go.
  • Make extra space. Avoid the temptation to fill your vehicle up to the roof. This obstructs the view from your rearview mirror and severely limits your visibility. Instead, consider a rooftop cargo box or hitch-mounted cargo carrier to create extra storage space.
  • Keep pets safe. Is the family dog headed to the beach with you? Use a pet carrier or harness device to keep him safe for the ride. If your pet is hurt in a covered accident while riding in your car, ERIE will help cover the vet treatment costs by reimbursing you up to $500 per pet (up to two pets) for a maximum reimbursement limit of $1,000).But why ruin a getaway with trips to the vet? It’s better to learn how you can keep pets safe in the car right off the bat. Oh, and don’t forget to pack a portable water bowl and some extra food for rest stops.

KNOW YOUR ROUTE

  • Use your GPS. Before you leave home, enter all of your destinations into your vehicle’s GPS system or a mobile navigation app. This will give you real-time updates on travel time and save you from searching for addresses at the last minute.
  • Plan for traffic. Construction delays can strike anytime, anywhere in the summer. And driving through a major city during rush hour could add hours to your itinerary. Know where congestion is possible and plan to travel during off-peak hours. Mobile navigation apps like Google Maps or Waze can also help by predicting traffic time and suggesting alternate routes if you get stuck.
  • Bring an atlas. Even though you haven’t used one in ages, keeping a road atlas in the car is always a good idea. With an old-school paper map, you don’t have to worry about losing your GPS signal or running out of battery. And if you have kids, they may get a kick out of tracking your travels.
  • Skip the toll booth. If you’ll be traveling on the turnpike, consider ordering an electronic transponder like E-ZPass. Using an electronic toll system allows you to skip the cash lines and pay lower fares. Already have a toll pass? Make sure your credit card information is up-to-date so you can reload your device when it runs low.

PREPARE YOUR VEHICLE

  • Schedule a multi-point inspection. This type of inspection, usually done at a dealership or independent auto shop, is a great way to get a snapshot of your vehicle’s overall condition. A trained mechanic can let you know of any maintenance issues to fix before they get worse (or more expensive).
  • Check your tires. Before you leave home, inspect the condition of your tires and inflate them to the pressure recommended by your vehicle’s manufacturer. If your tires are low on tread, replace them before you hit the road. You can check by using “the penny test.” Just insert a penny upside down into a tread groove. If you can see the top of Lincoln’s head, it’s time for new tires.
  • Change your oil. Road trips can rack up the miles on your car in the span of just a few days. Look ahead to preventative maintenance, like oil changes, that may come due while you’re traveling. Taking care of it before you leave is not only good for your car — it’s good for peace-of-mind, too.
  • Top off fluids. Don’t wait until your windshield is covered with bugs to find out your washer fluid is empty. Before your road trip, check all of your vehicle’s fluid levels. That includes windshield washer fluid, antifreeze, brake fluid, oil and power steering fluid. Top them all off as needed.

BE READY FOR ANYTHING

TAKE A BREAK

  • Make regular stops. While eliminating stops can help you get to your destination sooner, it’s not the most enjoyable way to travel. Stopping to take a short break every few hours will give everyone a chance to stretch their legs, and can help you stay more alert behind the wheel.
  • Pack healthy snacks. Chips, chocolate and soda. Every kid’s dream meal. To avoid the sugar highs after every rest stop and gas fill-up, pack a small cooler filled with bottled water, cereal bars, fruits and vegetables. Avoid salty foods or sugary drinks that may actually make you thirsty, or heavy foods that can make you tired.
  • Find ways to pass the time. “How much longer?” “Are we there yet?” “I’m bored!” If you’re traveling with children, check out these four brilliant ways to keep kids occupied on road trips.

PROTECT WHAT MATTERS MOST

When it comes to packing for your road trip, we know the people you travel with are your most important cargo. That’s why we’re here — to help you make sure they’re protected.

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Digital Estate Planning

Digital Estate Planning

What Happens to Online Logins After You’re Gone?

Update: Talk to your local agent to request a contact-free life insurance quote. For a limited time, we are waiving the requirement of a paramedical exam in light of CDC guidance to maintain social distancing and prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Thanks to the wonders of the internet, you can do just about anything online these days. Whether it’s watching a movie, checking your bank account balance, shopping for clothes or ordering pizza, each activity likely requires a username and password.

Studies have shown the average American internet user has 150 online accounts that require a login. That’s a lot of passwords to manage on a day-to-day basis. But have you ever wondered what happens to your accounts and logins after you’re gone?

As our digital footprints expand with each passing year, experts now recommend taking steps to manage your online accounts as part of the estate planning process. Like preparing a will, buying a life insurance policy or choosing an executor, a little bit of planning can make life much easier for those managing your estate when you pass.

Here are four ways you can plan ahead to make deactivating your online accounts quick and easy:

1. Create an inventory of your accounts.
To delete online accounts after your death, it’s important to know which digital logins existed in the first place. That’s why it’s helpful to make a complete inventory of your online accounts and the login information for each. Be sure to list every account you can think of, including:

  • Bank accounts
  • Credit cards
  • Retirement and savings plans
  • Social media profiles
  • Shopping sites
  • Insurance policies
  • Bills and utilities
  • Subscription services

For each account, include the website address, username, password, account numbers and answers to security questions. You may want to consider using a password manager to keep everything in one secure place.

2. Name a digital executor.
Similarly to an estate executor who manages your last will and testament, a digital executor can be named to take charge of your digital assets. Once assigned, the digital executor can be responsible for:

  • Archiving any files, photos, video or other content you’ve created
  • Deleting files and erasing hard drives
  • Maintaining certain online accounts while closing others
  • Transferring accounts to your heirs
  • Notifying online outlets of your death
  • Canceling recurring payments

Many states will allow you to legally name a digital executor in your will but since the need for managing online assets is fairly new, some states don’t recognize this role yet. Check with your estate attorney to learn the regulations in your state.

3. Understand each provider’s terms of service.
For every online account you create, you must agree to the provider’s terms of service. If you’re like most people, you probably scrolled to the bottom of the page to click “I agree” without reading the fine print.

But in the terms of service, there’s often language addressing how accounts are disabled in the event of a user’s death. Facebook, for instance, provides an option where a deceased person’s profile can be turned into a memorialized account. Commerce platforms like Amazon and PayPal require an executor to contact the company directly to deactivate an account. Understanding the policies of each account can help in providing instructions for your digital executor.

4. Delete unnecessary accounts. After creating an inventory of your online accounts, get a head start on cleaning up your digital presence by deleting accounts you no longer need. Having fewer active profiles will make life easier for your digital executor while also helping to protect you from the possibility of identity theft. And it will save you the embarrassment of someone finding those old Myspace photos.

PLAN FOR THE FUTURE

Like writing your will, the choices you make now about life insurance will ultimately speak on your behalf in representing your intentions for loved ones and family. As guardians of that legacy, Erie Insurance can help you make choices that will be true to your values.

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Corona Virus

8 Questions About Coronavirus and Auto Insurance

Corona VirusA lot of questions are being brought to the forefront during the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis. And not surprisingly, inquiries about car insurance are among them.

If I’m not driving, do I really need insurance? What could happen to my car if I’m not driving it as often? Will the cost of my auto insurance be impacted?

Good news: At ERIE, you get your very own local insurance agent who can help answer any questions about your specific policy. (Been a while? Schedule a quick phone call for a no-obligation coverage checkup.) For the latest news about how ERIE is responding to the pandemic, visit our COVID-19 Information Center.

As for those other head-scratchers? Here are some things you might have wondered about your auto coverage in the time of the COVID-19.

CAR INSURANCE AND CORONAVIRUS: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

  1. I’m not driving. Should I cancel my policy? While it may be tempting, canceling your auto insurance ‒ even if you’re not driving your vehicle ‒ is never a good idea. It can leave your car vulnerable in the event of a fire, theft or other damage that could be covered by comprehensive insurance. And a lapse in coverage also may make insurance more expensive when you decide to insure the vehicle again. Canceling your auto insurance might also subject you to fines from your state’s department of motor vehicles, or even be illegal. If you’re looking for ways to save, contact your local ERIE agent to talk through your options and learn about any available discounts.
  2. Is ERIE offering discounts to auto insurance customers?  To support our customers during this challenging time, ERIE is providing $200 million in dividends (relief payments in New York) directly to our personal and commercial auto insurance customers with policies in force as of April 1, 2020. This immediate relief represents about 30% of two months’ related auto insurance premiums. There’s no need to call your ERIE agent or request a check – eligible customers were sent a check in May. (Questions? Ask your local agent.) Learn more about our customer dividends, announced April 21, 2020.
  3. Is ERIE lowering rates for customers, since people are driving less? For long-term, steady and stable relief, we’re lowering auto insurance rates for personal and commercial customers. Pending regulatory approval, rate reductions will vary by state and will be based on individually purchased policies and coverage options. Once approved, premium adjustments will take effect at the time of renewal and the estimated total will provide an additional $200 million in financial relief to ERIE customers.Learn more about our rate reductions, announced April 9, 2020.
  4. How can I keep my car in good shape when I’m not driving it? Batteries. Fuel. Tires. There are a lot of things you need to consider if your vehicle is going to stay parked for a while. Get quick tips for safe car storage in this related article.
  5. How can I stay socially distant if I’m in a car accident? Accidents happen… even when there’s a pandemic. In the event you get in a car accident, stay calm and follow CDC guidelines for social distancing as much as you’re able. U.S. News & World Report suggests you do the following:
    • Share information from a distance. Put documents like your driver’s license, insurance information and registration on your vehicle’s hood so the other driver can take a photo of your information (and vice versa).
    • Think digital. Be sure to exchange contact information, including email addresses, too.
    • Take photos. Take a lot of photos that thoroughly document the scene of the accident. You may end up submitting them to your insurance company since it’s possible that police may not come to the scene. (Many police departments are taking accident reports by phone or online.)
  6. Will coronavirus impact my ability to file a claim? Our commitment to resolve your claim quickly and efficiently never waivers. You can continue to report claims by reaching out to your local ERIE agent or by calling us 24/7 at (800) 367-3743. Our claims teams are ready to meet the needs of our customers and claimants while taking steps to mitigate exposure to the coronavirus in line with best practices provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to limit in-person contact.
  7. I’m in a tough spot financially and can’t pay my bill. What are my options? Contact your local ERIE agent to let them know and discuss what’s best. Your local agent, as well as ERIE’s Customer Care team, may be able to assist with delaying payment dates, adjusting installments, changing pay plans or waiving penalties and fees. Some billing requests, including deferring payments and nonpay cancellations, can also be requested through erieinsurance.com/help or through your ERIE Online Account.
  8. I’m not driving my car right now. What should I know about lending my car to friends or family? If you own a car, chances are you’ve let a friend or family member borrow it at least once. But did you know that if there’s an accident, it’s your auto insurance policy that typically would have to pay? Ask your agent to explain how coverage works when you lend your vehicle, particularly if you have any excluded drivers on your policy. (The ability to exclude drivers varies by state.) Read more about the pros and cons of lending your car before handing over the keys.

Being “Above all in Service” has driven every decision we’ve made as a business since 1925 – and we still operate that way today.

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Locked Keys in Car

I Locked My Keys in the Car… Now What?

Locked Keys in Car

Locked Keys in Car

You walk into work and realize you left your coffee in the car. But when you go back to grab it, the door is locked — and your keys are sitting on the driver’s seat.

If you’ve been driving for very long, chances are something similar has happened to you. You can’t go anywhere until you and your keys are reunited. So how do you get back behind the wheel and on with your day?

Here are some tips to help ensure you’re prepared in the event of a lockout.

WHAT TO DO IF YOU LOCK YOUR KEYS IN THE CAR

A lockout can happen to anybody.And while there’s no shame in calling for help, it doesn’t make paying a tow truck or locksmith any easier. After all, the last thing you want is an unexpected bill because of an honest mistake.

But with a little preparation, you can have a backup plan ready to solve the problem yourself. So don’t let one forgetful moment ruin your entire day. Try these methods to MacGyver your way back into your vehicle:

  • Keep a spare key. The quickest, easiest backup plan is to have access to a spare key. Stash a spare in your wallet or purse. Leave a copy with a friend or loved one who can come and save the day. Or consider concealing a door key somewhere on or under your vehicle using a magnetic “hide-a-key” box. If hiding a key, make a copy — don’t use an original. A copied key will allow you to unlock the door, but won’t start the ignition on most modern vehicles equipped with an anti-theft security system.
  • Unlock the car remotely. If you can’t get in on your own, many automakers now offer remote assistance services. Each manufacturer markets its own brand of service (such as OnStar, Sync, Blue Link or mbrace). But they’re all capable of unlocking your vehicle via satellite. If your vehicle has a connected car system, just call the number provided by your automaker to remotely unlock the door. Since some services are subscription-based, it’s always worth checking to see if this option is available and enabled before you really need it.
  • Remember your code. If you’re driving a car with a keypad entry, you may be in luck. Just enter your code and you’ll be inside with the push of a button. This technology can be found on most Ford, Lincoln and Mercury vehicles manufactured over the past 20 years — but it’s not widely used by other makes and models.
  • Make your phone a key. Many new cars with remote assistance services also include smartphone capabilities. It may be an expensive feature, but it can turn your phone into a spare key with nothing but an app. Ask your dealer for details or check out your automaker’s website to see if and how you can utilize this high-tech option.

WHO SHOULD YOU CALL FOR HELP?

If you can’t get into the car on your own, you’ll need to call for help. There’s no need to worry. It just might take a little longer to unlock the door, since you’ll have to wait for assistance. If you’re not sure who to call, here are some services to add to your contacts:

  • Roadside assistance: If you’re an Erie Insurance customer, our Emergency Roadside Service Coverage can save the day. It’s an optional coverage that’s easy to add to your auto insurance policy and only costs about $5 per vehicle per year.1 Just call 800-FOR-ERIE to get connected directly with Agero, our nationwide service partner.
  • Towing companies: If you don’t have roadside assistance, you can call a towing company directly. Call the company of your choice or dial 411 to find services near you. Most tow companies can help unlock your vehicle. But if not, they can always tow your car to someone who can.
  • Locksmiths or dealerships: Locksmiths can always help in the event of a lockout. But they’re especially useful if you’ve lost your key and need a replacement. Since most modern vehicles use keys with a security transponder chip, it takes specialized equipment from a locksmith or auto dealer to make a replacement key. Just have your vehicle identification number and proof of ownership ready. A professional locksmith service can get pricey. But if you’re an ERIE customer, there’s good news: our comprehensive coverage can help reimburse your locksmith services up to $75, and if you purchased Emergency Roadside Service Coverage, ERIE will reimburse you for reasonable locksmith expenses.

CAN I CALL THE POLICE TO UNLOCK MY CAR?

One way to get back into your car is to call your local law enforcement authorities. However, keep in mind that locking your keys in your car doesn’t typically qualify as an emergency. Police officers are concerned with public safety, so generally, life or property has to be at risk for them to respond.

If a child is locked in the car or you’re in danger, call 911 immediately. Otherwise, you can try to call a local non-emergency number for help. But if the coast is clear, expect them to respond to more urgent calls or recommend a tow truck.

HOW TO PREVENT A LOCKOUT

Although anti-theft features have become more sophisticated, locksmiths have no shortage of calls every year to help people break into their own vehicles. Of course, the best way to make sure you and your keys don’t end up on opposite sides of the door is to keep them on your person.

But that may be easier said than done. So here are a few tips that can help make all the difference:

  • Always lock doors from the outside. Some vehicles won’t lock if your fob is still inside. But manually locking the door while you’re in the car could override that feature. Always lock the doors from the outside to reduce the risk of trapping your keys inside.
  • Take the key with you. If your engine is running, some security systems may automatically lock the doors assuming you’re getting ready to drive. Before you step out, turn the engine off and immediately put the key in your pocket.
  • Use a lanyard or keychain. A lone key is easy to lose, but lanyards and keychains make them much easier to keep track of. Attach a lanyard or chain to your keys to make them more noticeable.
  • Buy a carabiner. Attach a carabiner to your belt loop or bag and keep your keys within reach. You’ll have a place for them on your person no matter where you are, while building a habit of keeping your keys in a safe place.

GET BACK ON THE ROAD

Locking your keys in your car can ruin your day – or lighten your wallet – if you’re not prepared. When you’re stranded, it helps to have someone you can count on to help ease the stress.

At Erie Insurance, our promise is simple: to be there when you need us. With our Emergency Roadside Service, we can help with lockouts, flat tires, mechanical breakdowns, dead batteries or even a tank of gas. It’s an optional coverage that’s easy to add to your auto insurance policy and doesn’t cost a lot. You can also purchase the coverage with ERIE’s Roadside & Rentals bundle, which includes rental car expense coverage.

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Erie Insurance - 225 Square

ERIE broadens relief package to Customers

Erie Insurance CompanyDear ERIE Customer,

This pandemic has significantly impacted all of our lives. At Erie Insurance, we continue to consider what we can do to make a difference for our Customers and communities. Most of you aren’t driving; you’re staying at home doing the right thing to protect yourselves and your neighbors.

That’s why we’re announcing that we will provide $200 million in dividends directly to personal and commercial auto insurance Customers in our 12 states and the District of Columbia. This immediate relief represents about 30 percent of your monthly auto insurance premium for a two-month period or 5 percent of your annual premium.

You can calculate your dividend using this simple equation: Annual premium as of April 1, 2020, multiplied by .30 / divided by 6. You can find your annual premium on your most recent auto insurance declarations page. For personal auto insurance Customers, you can access your declarations page through your Online Account at View Policy Details.

Pending regulatory approval, you should receive a check from us in mid-May 2020. There is no need for you to call ERIE or your Agent to request the payment. Checks will be mailed directly to Customers with auto insurance policies in force as of April 1, 2020.

This announcement is in addition to the $200 million in rate reductions we announced earlier this month, pending regulatory approval. Together these efforts provide a combined $400 million in immediate relief and longer-term rate reductions for ERIE auto insurance Customers.

We recognize that many of our Agents and Employees have been doing great charitable works in their local communities. They’re feeding first responders and healthcare workers, purchasing gift cards from restaurants and retailers to thank those on the front lines and so much more. In support of their efforts, ERIE is also giving nearly $2.5 million to our Agents and branch offices to help further their generosity. Among many other initiatives, we’re also funding the COVID-19 Rapid Response Fund that supports critical non-profits right here in our hometown of Erie, Pennsylvania.

For 95 years, we’ve been doing the right thing by our Customers. During these unprecedented and uncertain times, please know you can call us and your Agent to help with issues related to payment, billing and changes in coverage. We stand by our Customers in times of hardship and catastrophe. It’s who we’ve been since 1925 — a company that’s always there for you — always aiming to be Above All in Service®.

If you have questions about ERIE’s Customer relief package, visit erieinsurance.com/support-center/COVID-19.

Sincerely,

Tim NeCastro
Chief Executive Officer
Erie Insurance

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