Legislation (S.5959-B/A.5718-B) Allows Out of State “Risk Retention Groups” Registered in New York State to Offer Automobile Insurance Coverage to Not-For-Profit 501(c)(3) Organizations In New York
Ensures Ithaca Carshare, A Not-for-Profit Membership-Based Carsharing Service, Can Continue to Provide Critical Access to Transportation for Those Who Do Not Own a Personal Vehicle Increasing Transportation Equity and Reducing Emissions
Governor Kathy Hochul today signed legislation to protect access to a not-for-profit carsharing service Ithaca Carshare and other similar groups by allowing risk retention groups registered in New York State to offer automobile insurance coverage to 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organizations. Legislation (S.5959-B/A.5718-B) authorizes risk retention groups, not chartered in this state, to issue automobile liability insurance coverage to 501(c)(3) organizations so that they may continue to offer transportation services. Ithaca Carshare and other similar not-for-profit carsharing organizations help New York State get closer to achieving its climate and equity goals by reducing traffic congestion and carbon emissions. Additionally, carshares provide access to private mobility options for people in underserved neighborhoods and offer grant-funded programs that enable these individuals to utilize their services.
"By passing this legislation, we're ensuring that Ithaca Carshare and similar not-for-profits can access the essential automobile insurance they need to remain open, flourish, and provide customers with critical access to transportation,” Governor Hochul said. “This isn't just a step forward in meeting our transportation challenges, it is also a vital part of our efforts to combat climate change by supporting the growth of carshare fleets and reducing carbon emissions."
Doreen M. Harris, President and CEO, NYSERDA said, “With access to expanded insurance coverage, clean transportation non-profits can enhance ride sharing access in communities – helping to lower climate emissions and improve local air quality across the state. Thanks to Governor Hochul, this newly enacted legislation will help remove barriers to equitable transportation options for all New Yorkers while moving us closer to meeting New York State’s climate and clean energy goals.”
Legislation (S.5959-B/A.5718-B) authorizes risk retention groups, not chartered in this state but are registered with the Superintendent of the Department of Financial Services under the Federal Liability Risk Retention Act of 1986, to offer automobile insurance to 501(c)(3) organizations. It will allow Ithaca Carshare and other related not-for-profits to access the crucial automobile insurance they need to continue operations.
State Senator Lea Webb said, “This is an exciting day for Ithaca, our region and state. Thank you to Governor Hochul for signing the Ithaca Carshare bill, making sure that this integral non-profit can continue to provide critical access to transportation for our constituents, many of whom can’t afford to buy a car or choose to not to in order to cut down on their carbon footprint. This pause in operations has been difficult for Ithaca Carshare staff who have been furloughed and for community members who rely on their services. Ithaca Carshare has served the City of Ithaca and its surrounding communities for over 15 years, providing an equitable and sustainable means of transportation to over 1500 Ithacans who utilize the service and who eagerly await its return.”
Assemblymember Anna Kelles said, “I am thrilled that Gov. Hochul signed this bill, ensuring Ithaca Carshare and all similar transportation related nonprofits can access the insurance they need through a risk retention group to continue operations. Ithaca Carshare is an icon in our community, embodying our collective values of equity and environmental conservation. And as transportation is one of the greatest contributors of greenhouse gas emissions, continuing community carsharing, and moving forward with the electrification of carshare fleets, is a critical solution to combating transportation’s impact on climate change. Throughout this year, I have heard from hundreds of constituents about how important carshare is to them and how they rely on it for their transportation needs. I deeply appreciate the energy of this community that helped move this bill forward, and I thank Senator Lea Webb and her team for their essential partnership throughout this process."
Ithaca Carshare Director Liz Field said, “I can’t thank our legislators and Governor Hochulenough for all their hard work in making this happen, and to our members and supporters for fighting this fight with us. This bill not only saves our organization, but will allow nonprofit carshares across the state to open and flourish. Carsharing is an important piece of solving many transportation challenges, while greatly reducing carbon emissions. I’m happy that New York is now in line with the rest of the country when it comes to carsharing.”
Ithaca Carshare, a not-for-profit membership-based carsharing service that has served the community for 15 years, paused operations on May 19, leaving more than 1,500 local members without 24/7 access to 30 vehicles for their transportation needs due to a long-standing auto insurance market failure for nonprofits. This bill now allows not-for-profit organizations like Ithaca Carshare to get auto insurance from a risk retention group, as is allowed by federal law. Ithaca Carshare relies on membership and usage fees to pay for the service, vehicles, fuel, insurance, repairs, and maintenance. Grants help pay for conversion to electric vehicles and supporting equitable access to carsharing.
Not-for-profit carsharing helps the Governor meet her stated climate and equity goals by reducing traffic congestion and carbon emissions. According to a Cornell study from 2013, each carshare vehicle replaces up to 15.3 vehicles on the road, easing burdens on transportation infrastructure and the associated costs. Additionally, carshares provide access to private mobility options for people in underserved neighborhoods and offer grant-funded programs that enable these individuals to utilize their services.
The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) has supported the expansion of not-for-profit carsharing organizations for more than a decade, investing more than $2 million in these enterprises. Not-for-profit carsharing organizations have consistently provided needed services for underprivileged New Yorkers so they can access school and job opportunities and other critical services. NYSERDA plans to invest more over the next two years to expand carsharing options for New Yorkers and the signing of this legislation will ensure that business models that specifically address communities in need will be able to obtain auto insurance and continue operating and will help attract more of these not-for-profit operators to serve additional communities in New York State.
Shawna Black, Tompkins County Legislature Chair said, "Ithaca prides itself in having green and affordable transportation options for our community. Ithaca Carshare offers an amazing service that helps people with their transportation needs without the large financial burden of owning a car. Thank you to our Assemblywoman Anna Kelles, State Senator Lea Webb, and Governor Kathy Hochul for restoring services for Ithaca Carshare. Thinking outside of the box, using cooperative resources and prioritizing our community needs will continue to be at the forefront of our role as elected leaders."
Ithaca Mayor Laura Lewis said, "I am thrilled with Governor Hochul’s signature on the Ithaca Car Share bill. This vital program meets the transportation needs of many people in our community. Residents can more readily access shopping, entertainment, work commitments with one of the energy efficient vehicles provided by Ithaca Car Share. Ithaca Car Share also supports our city’s commitment to meeting ambitious sustainability goals by having fewer cars on city roads, and for achieving transportation equity for those who do not or cannot own a personal vehicle. This is wonderful news for our community!"