Volume 6 Number 34 August 21, 2009
This week I had the opportunity to listen to people from different industries and backgrounds talk about their ideas for creating a stronger economy for Florida at conferences and meetings around the state. From farmers and landscapers in Apopka, to businesspeople at the AIF convention in Palm Beach, to AME pastors in the Panhandle, to construction workers in Jacksonville, it’s clear that everyone is focused on how we can build a new economy and create jobs in Florida.
Unfortunately, it seems like Floridians have felt this recession earlier and deeper than the rest of the country because of our economic dependence on housing and growth. To secure a successful future for Florida well into the 21st century, it’s clear that we must diversify our economy, giving innovators the tools they need to succeed and investing in education. And it’s going to take the exciting ideas that I keep hearing as I meet with Floridians to make this vision a reality.
I consider it an honor and a privilege to meet so many Floridians who are engaged and interested in moving our state forward, and hope to hear your ideas as well!
State of Florida
From Pensacola to Key West, Floridians and the 76.8 million visitors who come to our state each year know that Florida offers diverse cultures and landscapes that can’t be replicated. This is why CFO Sink spoke about the importance of protecting the individuality of Florida’s cities and counties in her remarks to the Florida League of Cities Annual Conference last weekend. At Saturday’s conference, and the board dinner the night before, CFO Sink met hundreds of local elected officials and spoke with them about their service to Floridians.
Because Florida’s future depends on the economic health of each region in the state, CFO Sink noted that counties, cities and towns should have the freedom to foster economic prosperity with different and exciting innovations. She also spoke about the importance of state leaders working together with elected officials in local governments to build a solid foundation for the state.
Last week the Florida Transportation Builders' Association held their annual convention in Boca Raton, and CFO Sink joined the group as their keynote speaker. Alex talked to the group about the vital role that transportation builders have to play in turning around Florida’s economy, as companies that do business in the state depend on a commitment to a modern, well-maintained transportation system. She also spoke about the need to bring more federal dollars to our state for transportation projects, which will stimulate local economies by creating jobs.
On Monday, CFO Sink joined workers’ comp specialists and risk managers from across the state at the 64th annual Workers’ Compensation Conference in Orlando. Alex spoke about her responsibility as CFO for overseeing workers’ compensation compliance in the state and also serving as the risk manager for every state agency.
CFO Sink spoke to the group about recent successes in the Department of Financial Services’ Division of Workers’ Compensation, including a new whistleblowers’ web site that has already received hundreds of complaints since launching in June. She also discussed recent business-like reforms in her risk management division that have helped to save taxpayers millions by focusing on prevention to reduce workers’ comp claims by state employees.
Sam Freidman, Editor in Chief for the National Underwriter, was recognized by the CFO during her speech, and you can read his impression of her conference visit here.
On Monday, CFO Sink met with leaders in the state’s agricultural industry at the Florida Nursery, Growers and Landscape Association in Apopka. Because Florida’s 44,000 farms and the businesses that support them annually have a $100 billion impact on the state’s economy, supporting the agricultural industry is vital to Florida’s economic recovery.
Alex talked about her own experiences growing up on a family farm, and how it makes her aware that those who work in our state’s agriculture industry have to be innovators and entrepreneurs. The CFO also discussed how she was encouraged by the exciting new developments in green fuel sources, and how with the right investments and attention Florida could be a leader in the new energy economy.
On Tuesday, CFO Sink attended the 144th Session of the Florida Annual Conference held at Bethel AME Church in Tallahassee to talk to pastors and laity from AME churches across North Florida about their concerns and ideas for Florida’s future.
CFO Sink spoke about the need to build a strong, diverse foundation for Florida, including investments in education and new industries to spur job creation statewide. She also noted that the answers to the challenges Floridians are facing today cannot come from government alone, and talked about the importance of involvement from faith communities and other community organizations.
CFO Sink, who in her role as a Chief Financial Officer sits on the Board of Enterprise Florida, attended an Enterprise Florida Board Meeting on Thursday. At the meeting, Alex participated with the other Board members in a forum to help develop Enterprise Florida’s 5-year statewide strategic plan, the “Roadmap to Florida’s Future”. The Board’s discussion mirrored the conversations at the regional forums that were held around the state, including the North Florida forum which the CFO attended last month.
The CFO was also recognized by Pete Tesch, President and CEO of the Ocala/Marion County Economic Development Corporation, for her recent attendance at an emergency meeting in Ocala and her continued work to bring attention and resources to the area following the closing of Ocala-based mortgage company Taylor, Bean & Whitaker. Enterprise Florida, Inc. (EFI) is a public-private partnership serving as Florida’s primary organization devoted to statewide economic development.
On Friday morning, businesspeople from across Florida heard from Alex Sink about how she uses the perspective she gained from three decades as a business leader in her work as Florida’s CFO. In her keynote speech to the Associated Industries of Florida’s (AIF) annual conference in Palm Beach, CFO Sink also spoke about the need for policies that support Florida’s businesses and entrepreneurs, as a way to build a stronger foundation for the state’s economy.
“Getting Florida’s economy back on the right track will, in so many ways, begin with the men and women in this room,” Alex said to the group. After her keynote speech, the CFO answered questions from participants about issues of concern to AIF.
Florida CFO Alex Sink today announced that the state storm line has been activated to assist Floridians whose homes, businesses or vehicles were damaged by Tropical Storm Claudette as it passed through the Gulf and into the Florida Panhandle. Florida residents who have questions or need help filing a claim can call CFO Sink’s Storm Line at 1-800-22-STORM.
“The first step to recovery is knowing where to find help, and our insurance specialists are available to help storm victims contact insurance companies and file claims,” said CFO Sink. “Our goal is to help residents rebuild as quickly as possible.”
Storm victims who are unfamiliar with the insurance claim process or need help reaching their insurance company can ask questions and get assistance from the CFO Sink’s team of insurance specialists on the Storm Line from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. EST. General insurance information is also available at www.MyFloridaCFO.com.
CFO Sink also offered the following advice to Floridians who have suffered property or vehicle damage:
More information regarding disaster-related insurance topics is available on the Department’s Disaster Response page at www.MyFloridaCFO.com/Consumers/Storm/ or by calling 850-413-3089. Consumers looking for tips on the rebuilding process, including storm-resistant construction and materials, can view CFO Sink’s My Safe Florida Home web site at www.MySafeFloridaHome.com.
Florida Insurance Consumer Advocate Sean Michael Shaw, Esq., last Friday sent a letter to Kevin McCarty, Commissioner for the Office of Insurance Regulation (OIR), with a list of questions regarding OIR’s recent approval of certain revised discounts from State Farm.
“[D]ue to the estimated premium impact of this change to the rating plan, State Farm’s request should be submitted to the same scrutiny as a filing to increase base rates,” Insurance Consumer Advocate Shaw wrote. “Florida’s insurance consumers should be confident that any change to their insurance premiums is done in a thorough and responsible manner, with careful consideration given to all statutory requirements.”
A copy of Insurance Consumer Advocate Shaw’s letter is attached.
On Saturday, August 22, Florida CFO Alex Sink’s Department of Financial Services will be teaming up with the City of St. Petersburg, local HUD certified counseling agencies, lenders and others to hold a Florida Housing Help Workshop at the Enoch Davis Community Center from 9 a.m. till 2 p.m.
This workshop will include presentations throughout the day such as: how and why homeowners should talk with their lenders, the foreclosure process, frauds and scams, short sales, affordable housing alternatives, information from the internal revenue service, and information on a new program called Bank on St. Petersburg.
In addition, homeowners can meet with HUD counselors and lenders who will educate them on the foreclosure assistance process and evaluate their situation to negotiate possible outcomes on their behalf.
To assist the counselors and lenders who are there to help, attendees need to bring copies of certain documents. Please visit http://www.MyFloridaCFO.com/FloridaHousingHelp/Legal.htm for a list of needed documentation.
For more information, please visit the Department of Financial Services’ web site at www.MyFloridaCFO.com or call our Consumer Helpline at (850) 413-3089 or toll free at 1-877-MY-FL-CFO (1-877-693-5236).
CFO Alex Sink wants to educate renters throughout Florida about their rights if they are a tenant of a foreclosed home. Florida is one of the top four states that make up over half of the foreclosure activity in the United States. The National Low Income Housing Coalition reports that approximately 40 percent of families facing eviction are renting homes that are in foreclosure.
Under the Helping Families Save Their Homes Act of 2009, it stipulates there must be a 90-day notice requirement and additional protections for tenants in foreclosed properties. Prior to May 2009, there were no laws protecting renters. Under the Helping Families Save Their Homes Act, tenants should:
Remember that the 90-day rule applies when your home is sold by the bank or an investor and the new owners plan to move in soon. So renters don’t be distressed! You have rights, use them!
When disaster strikes, homeowners take comfort in the fact they have insurance coverage to help repair or rebuild their home. What most people do not know is that the coverage limits you have on your home may not be enough to replace or rebuild it.
One of the most-needed types of coverage homeowners often overlook – and most often don’t know about – is called law and ordinance coverage.
Once a home is five years old, the building codes and ordinances that were in place when it was built become outdated or replaced with new codes. If your home is damaged or destroyed, the contractor is required by law to use the new building codes and ordinances. They cannot obtain building permits to repair or rebuild using the original codes which means the cost to repair or rebuild will be higher.
Some ordinances require complete demolition and reconstruction of homes that are damaged more than 50 percent. The cost to tear down and rebuild the undamaged portion is not covered unless you have law or ordinance coverage.
Florida law requires Florida licensed companies to include law and ordinance coverage on their policies with the minimum that must be offered is at least a 25 percent of the dwelling amount. In other words, if your home is insured with an admitted carrier for $200,000 you should have at least $50,000 of coverage for law and ordinance changes. An agent may offer an exclusion to reduce your premium, but think twice before signing the wavier. Some companies that are not licensed in Florida are writing homeowners policies and they are not required to provide the law and ordinance coverage.
What should homeowners do?
Review your policy to make sure you have the coverage. If you don’t have the coverage or don’t have enough coverage, contact your agent. Since this additional coverage will cover the cost to demolish the portion of the home still standing, the cost of construction as required by law, and the cost to clear the land of debris after demolition, it is very important.
It is important to weigh the factors and make sure you have the coverage you need in the event of a disaster.
Prescription medications are necessary and the costs can vary from a small outlay to an exorbitant amount. Even with health insurance, the costs can be high and not all drugs may be covered. Many on prescribed medication have experienced financial difficulty in paying for a prescription. Here are some money-saving ideas to help.
See if your medication is offered on a flat-rate prescription. Walmart, Target, and others have flat rate $4 prescriptions for a month's supply, and other pharmacies - like CVS, Rite-Aid and Walgreens - have competitive prices as well. If you have insurance, you can pay $4 instead of your usual co-pay.
Use the generic formula if available. Once a drug is out of patent protection, it becomes available in generic form and is usually less expensive. Ask your doctor to specify generic, or ask the pharmacy to substitute.
Ask your doctor for free samples. Try the sample medication before you pay for a month's worth from the pharmacy. When in financial difficulty, go back to your doctor for samples rather than not taking your meds.
Ask your doctor to prescribe double-dosage pills. Higher-strength tablets often cost the same as the lower dosage, and the pills can be split in half. This works for some types of pills and not for capsules.
Find a prescription assistance program. These programs are aimed to assist those who are low income. Check out Consumer Report's guide on assistance.
Look for over the counter (OTC) alternatives with your doctor's approval. Many prescription medications have less expensive competitors with very similar ingredients available over the counter for ailments such as allergies, heartburn, flu and cold.
Be cautious about buying from Canada, Mexico or over the Internet. There are both safety and financial risks.
Disclaimer: Consumer eViews financial information is provided for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional financial advice. Always seek the advice of a qualified professional before taking any course of action that may affect your financial or legal rights.
We all love our movies and our music, and each year billions of compact discs (CDs, CDRs and DVDs) are produced to fill our love.
Are you aware that millions of the CDs and DVDs are reaching our landfills and incinerators annually?
And why is that bad? First, it takes about 300 cubic feet of natural gas, two cups of crude oil and 24 gallons of water to manufacture a pound of plastic - that would make 30 CDs. To put this in perspective, AOL alone has distributed more than two billion CDs, which equals the natural gas equivalent of heating 200,000 homes for one year!
Second, scientists estimate that it will take over one million years for a CD to completely decompose in a landfill. Clearly these plastic discs can have a dramatic impact on our planet.
So, why are they not getting recycled? Unfortunately, most people don’t know that recycling is a possibility. Fortunately, awareness is growing. Conscientious musicians at concerts are beginning to ask their fans to bring in old CDs when they buy new CDs. Or you can set up your own compact disc recycling program in your home or office.
You can easily collect CDs and DVDs and send them to recycling facilities. Many exist throughout the country and some will take the discs for free although you will pay the postage.
It will be worth it to know you’ve helped landfills have less non-decomposing plastic and incinerators generate less pollution to hurt our atmosphere.