CFO Alex Sink's Consumer eViews Newsletter

                Volume 5  Number 36  September 5, 2008

CONSUMER SERVICES HELPLINE 877-MY-FL-CFO

Florida’s Financial Action Team (FACT), the brainchild of Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink, met this week to hear the much anticipated reports from more than a dozen housing, employment and community development representatives. FACT was created by CFO Sink as a public-private partnership to help the State identify and benefit from funding and programs available from the federal Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008.

Know as HERA, the federal program provides funding and programs that can help states, like Florida, whose families and communities are reeling from the foreclosure crisis. RealtyTrac's July 2008 U.S. Foreclosure Market Report stated that Florida had the second highest number of foreclosures in the nation, posting 45,884 foreclosures in July 2008—a 14 percent increase from the previous month. Florida's foreclosure rate was the third-highest in the country, with one foreclosure for every 186 households.

“We had a very productive first working meeting and I am extremely encouraged by the work of the members of Florida’s Financial Action Team,” said CFO Sink. “Florida’s FACT is an example of public – private partnerships at their best. It is already clear from the work of our FACT stakeholders that by working together, we can help Florida families and communities suffering from the foreclosure crisis.”


CFO Sink at Financial Action Team meeting

CFO SINK’S “FINANCIAL ACTION TEAM”

Sink called upon the broad coalition last month to review federal foreclosure assistance legislation

Chief Financial Officer Sink chaired the first workshop of her Financial Action Team on Thursday, September 4, and took reports from more than a dozen participants on the recently passed federal Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008. During the half day workshop, representatives of the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, the banking and credit union industry, mortgage brokers and lenders, realtors, financial planners, cities and counties, affordable housing groups and legal services organizations discussed the key provisions of the new law that will provide housing relief to Floridians.

CFO's Financial Action Team meeting

The FACT Team discussed ways for Florida to take advantage of the billions of dollars in federal aid to persons with distressed mortgages, veterans, local governments and non-profit affordable housing groups. Some of the provisions, such as a tax credit for new homebuyers, are in effect now, and other provisions will go into effect later this year and in 2009. CONTINUED


Saving energy, saving money

Energy tips for Florida families - these actions represent ways to behave kindly toward Mother Earth, AND save money as well as energy.

Presented by CFO Alex Sink's science advisor Meg Lowman, Ph.D., on the faculty at New College of Florida. Dr. Lowman has written numerous award-winning books and is an expert on the rain forests of the world.

Install a TED (The Energy Detective) or similar gadget in your home to monitor your real-time energy use. It is surprising how much energy a clothes dryer requires, and how your energy bills will be greatly reduced when you start to observe the specific kilowatts of energy that different appliances require.

The device is a simple, yet extremely accurate, home energy monitor that allows you to see electricity usage in real-time. You can purchase a monitor for as little as $140 and with the federal 2004  Energy Bill, you may be eligible to receive a  tax credit for the purchase, which makes the monitor cost effective.

TED will accurately tell you what your bill is going to be long before the electric bill arrives. Meanwhile, you will learn more about conserving energy, saving money, and helping save the environment. Once installed you can turn individual appliances on and off to determine exactly how much energy each appliance uses and reduce use accordingly.  TED Energy monitor

Studies show that savings can range from 10-20%.  Imagine knowing how much it costs the moment you turn on a light bulb. Conscientious consumers can reap real savings by installing an energy monitor.


Deputy Chief Financial Officer Brian London, right, receives commemorative plaque presented by inaugural academy class.
Deputy Chief Financial Officer Brian London, right, receives a  plaque presented by inaugural academy class president Dwight Murphy on behalf of the class.

DFS’ ENFORCEMENT ACADEMY GRADUATES 12 IN INAUGURAL CLASS

Twelve law enforcement officers graduated today from the inaugural class of the Department of Financial Services’ Joint Enforcement Academy.

Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink called for the creation of the academy as a way to harness the skills and experience that new enforcement officers brought from the variety of agencies where they previously worked. The inaugural class included former homicide detectives, arson detectives, financial fraud investigators, patrol officers, sheriff’s deputies, troopers and D.O.T. officers. These officers are now employed in one of the department’s two sworn law enforcement agencies – the Bureau of Fire and Arson Investigations (BFAI) and the Division of Insurance Fraud (DIF). Future classes will include enforcement officers from other divisions and bureaus.

The graduates completed eight weeks of training in a variety of issues ranging from mortgage fraud to crime intelligence analysis. Deputy Chief Financial Officer Brian London, who handed out the diplomas to the graduating class, said, “The talent of the men and women serving in our enforcement agencies is too great not to use to our full capacity.”


Fraud badge

CFO SINK UNCOVERS FRAUDULENT CHECK-CASHING SCHEME; DELIVERS $325,000 IN RESTITUTION

Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink announced that an investigation by the Department of Financial Services’ (DFS) Division of Insurance Fraud, has led to more than 110 criminal charges against Christiano Leonardo Gloria, the operator of one of the largest check-cashing operations in Broward County, for allegedly conspiring in a major money-laundering and workers’ compensation fraud scheme. Attorney General Bill McCollum’s Office of Statewide Prosecution will be prosecuting the case.

DFS investigators arrested Gloria on Friday on racketeering charges stemming from his alleged support of a workers’ compensation premium fraud in the construction industry through Vionaldo Express, Inc., a money transmitter business that he operated. So far, the investigation has led to $325,000 in restitution.

“Unfortunately, there are check cashing operations that are helping companies avoid providing workers’ compensation coverage for their employees,” said CFO Sink, who oversees DFS and the state’s Division of Workers’ Compensation. “Our top priority is protecting Florida’s citizens, and we will hold employers and those who help them accountable if they violate the laws that protect injured workers.” CONTINUED


My Family CFO

Are you the chief financial officer of your family? Are you always looking out for the best deals, wise investments and smart moves for your family's financial security?

As your family's fiscal watchdog, keep an eye on this column for money-smart ideas from the Chief Financial Officer of Florida, Alex Sink.

IDEA: YOU MAY HAVE EXTRA MONEY SITTING AROUND THE HOUSE

As the summer days come to an end, consider getting rid of your old stuff -- those items that you seldom use but are unwilling to throw away. Here are several creative ways to make some cash by selling or donating your old clothes, electronics, furniture, collectibles and any other items of interest.

  • Why not have a yard sale? Drag those unwanted treasures to the front yard so someone else can cherish them. As an added bonus, you can make a few bucks! Share the fun by teaming up with neighbors and friends to have a joint sale.
  • Create an account with an online auction site to sell your unwanted items. Set a minimum price and take the chance that you might get more at auction. You do the work to photograph, describe, list online and follow up on each auction item. Packing and shipping, paid by the purchaser, are worth the effort for a good sale price. In some communities, local entrepreneurs will sell your items online for you for a fee. All you need do is drop the items off, the seller will do the rest.
  • Consider consignment. Local shops take lightly used items for resale, with a percentage of the sale price going to each party. Some shops will eventually donate your goods if they don't sell.
  • Another option is donation to a good cause. Non-profit organizations recycle goods and provide an itemized receipt for possible tax deductions.

 

 

PREPARE FOR THAT STORM IN THE FORECAST

With the 2008 storm season far from being over, CFO Sink is especially interested in making sure that you, your family, home, and business are all prepared for the remainder of the season. The next storm may be more serious. Record rainfall and resulting flooding from Fay has served as a lesson to many Floridians without flood insurance. Remember, homeowners insurance does not cover flood damage – contact the National Flood Insurance Program for more information on how to obtain flood insurance coverage. Visit http://www.floodsmart.gov/.

As the storm season progresses, State Fire Marshal Sink would also like to warn residents of the dangers of using a generator indoors or in any enclosed area such as a garage, carport or sunroom. Thousands of residents have lost power due to Tropical Storm Fay, and fire safety is a potential issue as residents use candles and lanterns in their homes.

For more information on preparedness tips, emergency contact information, or for guidance in filing insurance claims, the department’s useful Homeowners’ Financial Toolkit is available online. Our consumer helpline is also open to provide tropical storm or hurricane assistance at 1-800-22-STORM, or 1-800-227-8676. For a problem with a claim, you may file a request for assistance online or look up licensing information on insurance agents and adjusters at www.MyFloridaCFO.com.