Volume 6 Number 26 June 26, 2009

Dear Floridian:

This week, I joined Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to launch President Obama's 'United We Serve' initiative in Florida. This initiative calls for citizens to identify needs in their communities, so Secretary Napolitano and I assisted the Orlando Citizen Corps Council in assembling Community Emergency Response Team Kits and encouraged Floridians to help their neighbors in the event of a hurricane.

Especially in these challenging times, everyone knows someone who can use a helping hand. Please be sure to check out volunteer opportunities around the state!

Sincerely,

Alex




Alex Sink
Chief Financial Officer
State of Florida


DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano & CFO Alex Sink Secretary Napolitano and CFO Sinklaunch 'United We Serve' initiative, encouraging community service and preparedness

Floridians can visit www.serve.gov to find and create service projects in their communities

 

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Florida CFO Alex Sink today helped launch President Barack Obama’s ‘United We Serve’ initiative in Florida during a visit to the Orlando Emergency Operations Center. Secretary Napolitano and CFO Sink assisted the Orlando Citizen Corps Council and volunteers assemble Community Emergency Response Team Kits. They also spoke about the need for Floridians to get themselves prepared in the case of a hurricane, and encouraged them to reach out a helping hand to their friends and neighbors.CFO Sink fills bag

“Volunteerism strengthens a community’s capacity to meet challenges,” said DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano. “President Obama’s call for service—today and everyday—plays a critical role in our efforts to prepare and protect the nation.”

“Floridians are facing many challenges right now— none of which can be overcome without working together as a community, neighbor helping neighbor,” said CFO Alex Sink. “Today’s service initiative, assembling Community Emergency Response Team Kits, is just one of the ways that Floridians can work together to prepare and protect our state.”

United We Serve is a summer service initiative that begins June 22 and runs through the National Day of Service and Remembrance on September 11.  The initiative will be led by the Corporation for National and Community Service, the federal agency dedicated to fostering service in communities across the country.

Serve.govDuring this summer, the President is renewing his call to all Americans to identify needs in their communities, engage in meaningful service to create change – and stay engaged with those projects long after September. CFO Sink and Sec. Napolitano with volunteersTo create new service projects, to find service projects in their communities and to share stories about projects that are making a difference, Floridians can visit the Corporation for National and Community Service’s website, www.serve.gov.

CFO Sink is committed to using a variety of community service efforts to help Floridians. She helped to create the Florida Attorneys Saving Homes program, which pairs volunteer lawyers with Florida homeowners facing foreclosure, and helped kick-off the AARP of Florida’s Operation Hurricane Prepare initiative, which targets AARP members for community preparedness efforts.


4-H Legislature visits Tallahassee, is addressed by CFO Sink

On Tuesday, CFO Sink welcomed aspiring teen leaders involved in the Florida 4-H Youth Development program to Tallahassee. Florida 4-H, a youth development program based at the University of Florida, offers a summer “4-H Legislature” program for teens ages 14-18 to get first-hand experience in a mock legislative process. Participants i4-H Legislaturen the group serve as Florida 4-H senators, representatives, lobbyists, reporters, Lt. Governor or Governor, and can also get experience being a Supreme Court Justice, lawyer or juror.

At her welcome address in the House Chamber, CFO Sink encouraged the young leaders to stay active in their pursuits and make the most out of opportunities in their communities. As the Florida 4-H was founded in 1909, its executive branch members then presented CFO Sink with a Florida 4-H Centennial resolution.


CFO Sink Participates in the Florida Bar Convention in OrlandoThe Florida Bar

CFO Sink attended the Florida Bar’s annual convention this week in Orlando; while there, she met with legal professionals from around the state and was able to speak to them about their different fields and some of the ways in which she has worked with lawyers to help protect consumers.

On Thursday, CFO Sink spoke to the Elder Section of the Florida Bar about her Safeguard our SeniorsSafeguard Our Seniors initiative, which pushes for tougher penalties for unscrupulous agents who defraud senior investors and establishes better disclosures and protections upfront for seniors who invest in these products. She also met with the Florida Association of Women Lawyers, the Business Law Section of the Florida Bar, and attended many of the convention’s meetings.


CFO SinkFlorida Retail Federation addressed by CFO SinkFlorida Retail Federation

On Wednesday, CFO Sink spoke to the Florida Retail Federation, which advocates, promotes and safeguards retailing across the state of Florida. The retail industry employs 20 percent, or one in five, Floridians; CFO Sink and Debbie Harveyas the state’s second-largest industry, retail has a significant impact on employment and other key economic factors in the state.

In her remarks, CFO Sink spoke about the need for accountability in state government, including cutting waste and avoiding no-bid contracts so taxpayers can always get the best deal. She also spoke of the need to lift barriers for businesses that want to invest in Florida’s communities. In the photo to the right, CFO Sink and Debbie Harvey, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Florida Retail Federation.


Mortgage Bankers Association of FloridaMortgage Bankers Association of Florida hears from CFO Sink in Sarasota

CFO Sink spoke on Thursday to the MortgageCFO Sink Bankers Association of Florida, a trade organization composed of loan origination companies, servicing companies, and affiliated industry service providers. With three decades of business experience, CFO Sink spoke about common-sense business principles that could alleviate some of the challenges facing Florida, like encouraging smart growth and fostering entrepreneurship.

Florida currently leads the nation in mortgage fraud, which is a top concern of the association. With that in mind, CFO Sink talked to the group about measures her Department of Insurance Fraud has taken to address this crime, as well as consumer outreach programs including the Florida Attorneys Saving Homes program, which was created to pair pro-bono lawyers with homeowners who are trying to navigate the foreclosure process.


Lake City FHH WorkshopHomeowners Find Help in Lake City

On Friday, June 19, CFO Sink partnered with Representative Debbie Boyd to hold a Florida Housing Help event in Lake City. The event was well attended and the feedback was very encouraging.

Survey responses included:

“Thanks for bringing HUD counselors together to talk and get action on something. Super!”

“Information received along with the conciliation brought a sense of relief for the situation I’m in- very good.”

Representative Boyd agreed the event was a great success.

“This was a great event because consumers could get all the information they needed in a one-stop shop,” Rep. Boyd said. “Having the HUD counselors and community resources in one place was a great thing. Thank you, CFO Sink, for having this workshop in our rural county.”

One attendee said it best: “Thank you for this workshop. It was just what we needed to get us back on the right track.”Florida Housing Help

Florida Housing Help will offer a foreclosure workshop tomorrow in partnership with the University Area Community Center Complex in Tampa. Struggling homeowners will be able talk to counselors about foreclosure issues and options.

DATE: Saturday, June 27, 2009
TIME: 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.
LOCATION: University Area Community Center Complex 14013 North 22nd Street Tampa, FL 33613

To find out where the closest Florida Housing Help workshop is to you, visit http://www.myfloridacfo.com/FloridaHousingHelp/ or call the Consumer Help Line at 1-877-My-FL-CFO 1-877-693-5236.


Hurricane Season: Are you prepared?Hurricane Checklist: Finding the right contractor to harden your home

CFO Alex Sink encourages Floridians to protect themselves and their property against hurricane damage. The first step is getting a wind inspection to identify how you can strengthen your home, and more information on how to get your home inspected is available at www.MySafeFloridaHome.com.

With your home inspection in hand, it’s time to look for the right contractor. Here are some helpful tips to follow when hiring a contractor:

For more tips when hiring a contractor, visit http://www.myflorida.com/dbpr/consumers.html.

CFO Sink aggressively lobbied the Legislature this year to continue funding the tremendously successful My Safe Florida Home (MSFH) program, which provided free inspections for more than 400,000 Florida homes and more than 40,000 mitigation grants. She plans to try again next year. However, unfortunately due to budget constraints, the program will expire on Tuesday.

A wind inspection alone may lead to insurance premium savings. Approximately 55 percent of homeowners who received an MSFH inspection were eligible for an average savings of $216 on their insurance without taking any further action.

Find out when a Hurricane Preparedness Event will be in your area on our calendar linked here. Check back with us next week for more ideas.


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 watch dog, keep an eye on this column for money-smart ideas from the Chief Financial Officer of Florida, Alex Sink.

If you have a creative way to be fiscally smart, share it with us for this column!

MyFamilyCFO@MyFloridaCFO.com

Idea: Watch out for debit card fraud

Here's the scenario: A text message arrives from your bank confirming that you have deactivated your debit card. If you have any questions, you should contact the bank.

The immediate reaction: Call the number in the text message to state that you have not deactivated your debit card. The person on the line apologizes and offers to reactivate your debit card right away. Verification is needed to prove who you are and that you are in possession of your card. Then you are asked to read your debit card account number along with the three-digit security code on the back of your card and confirm your PIN and your social security number.

But wait a minute. Would the bank send a text message? Would the bank ask for this information?

No, but a scam artist would and now the information needed to drain your bank account and get your credit information is in criminal hands.

Don't become a victim. Remember that your bank or credit card company would not text message or ask for personal information. Your account holders will already have that information. Confirmation may be needed, but it will be the last four digits of your social security number or your mother's maiden name-type questions.

Look up your bank's phone number from your monthly statement and call that number if you have a question or a scare such as this.


Saving energy, saving moneyEnergy tips for Florida families - these actions represent ways to behave kindly toward Mother Earth, AND save money as well as energy. These tips are 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 rainforests of the world.

Something fishy on the menu?

A pocket seafood selector fits in your wallet, and provides a concerned citizen with an updated guide of which fish are ecologically correct to eat and which are not. Currently, some of our Florida (as well as international) fisheries are over-fished, meaning that their numbers are so low in the wild that they could become extinct. In other cases, some fish that are farmed create pollution because the methods for mass-producing them are not healthy. Most of the pressure that leads to over-fishing or farming without sanitary measures comes from unsuspecting consumers. It is very important to learn which fish have sustainable populations and/or healthyPocket Seafood Selector fish-farming practices so that you can safely buy and eat them. It is equally important to recognize which ones should not be consumed, because its population may need time to replenish stocks in the wild.

Restaurants and fish-mongers should be scolded if they offer anything on the red (or alarm) list: Chilean sea bass (also known as toothfish), grouper, orange roughy, Atlantic farmed salmon, shark, imported swordfish and bluefin tuna. The good news is that – if people refrain from eating these fish for several years – their natural populations should replenish naturally in the ocean. But if we continue to overfish them, they could disappear forever. The green list of fish safe for consumption currently includes: US-farmed barramundi (also catfish or crayfish), Pacific cod and halibut, US spiny lobster, Atlantic herring (sardines), striped mullet, Alaska wild salmon, US farmed tilapia, farmed rainbow trout, and Skipjack or Albacore tuna (if caught on a troll/pole). In some cases, how the fish are caught is also important – some methods result in killing additional fish during the process (called by-catch). It is not always easy to be a careful consumer of fish – but the pocket seafood guides provide a good education tool.

Click on the Seafood Selector to the right or go online to the Environmental Defense web site to download your seafood selector at www.edf.org/seafood . This list is updated regularly to reflect changes in fish populations worldwide, and to educate consumers to buy only sustainable fish.