Volume 6 Number 46 November 13, 2009

Dear Floridian:

Veterans Day this week was a very special opportunity for all of us to honor the service and sacrifice of America’s military veterans and their families, including the 1.7 million veterans who call Florida home.

On Wednesday, I had the privilege of visiting with veterans at the Baldomero Lopez Veterans’ Nursing Home in Land O’ Lakes with Admiral LeRoy Collins, Executive Director of the Florida Department of Veterans’ Affairs. It was an honor to spend time with some of our country’s true heroes and to have an opportunity to thank them for their service.

Their stories were not only inspiring, but an important reminder of the need to honor the contributions of current and former members of the United States Armed Forces everyday, and ensure they receive the care and benefits their sacrifices have earned. And I encourage all Florida veterans to visit www.FloridaVets.org to learn more.

Sincerely,

Alex




Alex Sink

CFO
State of Florida


CFO Sink and Admiral Collins at the veterans' nursing home. On Veterans Day, CFO Sink honors those who bravely served

Florida CFO Alex Sink this week encouraged citizens to participate in local Veterans Day activities to honor the brave men and women who so proudly served our country.

CFO Sink recently offered a resolution to the Florida Cabinet to commemorate the contributions of current and former members of the United States Armed Forces. On Wednesday she and Admiral LeRoy Collins, Jr., the executive director of the Florida Department of Veterans’ Affairs, visited with veterans and thanked them for their service at the Baldomero Lopez Veterans’ Nursing Home in Land O’ Lakes.Veterans accept resolution at Cabinet meeting.

“We will forever be indebted to the brave men and women who have served our country with honor and distinction, putting their lives on the line to preserve our freedom and protect our shores,” said CFO Sink. “I encourage all Floridians to join me in honoring the service and sacrifice of America’s military Veterans at the Cabinet meeting.veterans and their families, including the 1.7 million veterans who now call Florida home.”

The Veterans Day resolution, presented by CFO Sink at the October 27 Cabinet meeting, was received by Admiral LeRoy Collins, Jr., executive director of the Florida Department of Veterans’ Affairs, Navy veteran Mair Costa, president of the Collegiate Veterans Society of Santa Fe College in Gainesville, and other members of the 2009 Honor Detail.

Veterans with CFO Sink

“It is especially important to me to recognize the veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, such as 25-year-old Mair Costa, and to ensure that our young men and women who are returning home are given the care, help and benefits their sacrifices have earned,” CFO Sink continued.

Read the Cabinet resolution introduced by CFO Sink recognizing Veterans Day.


CFO Sink briefed on Tropical Storm Ida at National Hurricane Center

Florida CFO and State Fire Marshal Alex Sink on Monday visited the National Hurricane Center in Miami to receive a briefing from National Hurricane Center Director Bill Reid on Tropical Storm Ida.

“I’m grateful for the public preparedness work of our law enforcement and meteorology teams in the Panhandle and here at the National NHC Director Bill Reid briefs CFO SinkHurricane Center,” said CFO Sink. “While Ida has lost some of her strength over the last few hours, she will still pack a punch, and it’s very important that Floridians are prepared.”

CFO Sink’s Department of Financial Services’ Storm Line, 1-800-22-STORM, has been activated to assist Floridians if homes, businesses or vehicles receive damage from Tropical Storm Ida. CFO Sink’s Storm Line experts are available from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. EST.

General preparedness and insurance information is available at www.MyFloridaCFO.com.


State Fire MarshalTwo members of State Fire Marshal Sink's team receive prestigious annual awards

Team Members Awarded Fire Investigator of the Year and Fire Inspector of the Year

Two members of Florida State Fire Marshal Alex Sink’s team last week received prestigious annual awards from the Florida Advisory Committee on Arson Prevention (FACAP) and the Florida Fire Marshals and Inspectors Association (FFMIA). Florida Fire Inspection Specialist Zimmerman Roberts was named the 2009 Fire Inspector of the Year, and Florida State Fire Marshal Detective George Holcomb was named the 2009 Fire Investigator of the Year. Both awards are well known throughout the fire and law enforcement community.

George Holcomb accepts award from FACAP President FactorDetective Holcomb accepted the “Fire Investigator of the Year” award at the 32nd Annual FACAP Training Conference held last week in Ocala. Since 1989, FACAP has presented this award to a member of a Fire Service Department or Law Enforcement Agency whose efforts contributed to the suppression of arson in the state of Florida. Detective Holcomb was nominated for his outstanding work on a case in which he was able to identify and arrest the criminals responsible for five separate arson fires in Orange County.

Left, George Holcomb accepts the award from Max Factor, president of FACAP.

Fire Inspector Zimmerman Roberts accepts award from FFMIA VP Jeff CollinsFire Inspector Zimmerman Roberts was presented with the “Fire Inspector of the Year” award at the FFMIA 61st Annual Fire Prevention Conference held last week in Maitland. Inspector Roberts received the award for his unwavering commitment to fire safety, furthering established fire prevention principles throughout northeast Florida, and independently establishing and developing cooperative relationships between the Division of State Fire Marshal, state and local agencies, fire officials and allied industry professionals. FFMIA has existed as a non-profit corporation since 1982, and at that time assumed the responsibility of hosting the Annual Fire Prevention Conference, which has been in existence since 1948.

Right, Zimmerman Roberts accepts the award from Jeff Collins, vice president of FFMIA.


Associated General Contractors Hear From CFO Sink about Rebuilding Florida

CFO Sink spoke to the South Florida Chapter of Associated General Contractors of America Monday evening during their chapter meeting. Alex talked about her long-term vision for bringing stable, diverse industries to Florida, which would put the construction industry back to work building sustainable growth in our state.

At the meeting, CFO Sink also commended the work of her Division of Workers’ Compensation, and noted the increased enforcement and streamlining that has been instituted. She encouraged the contractors in the room to visit the new Workers’ Comp Whistleblower site, which allows citizens to give anonymous tips about suspected workers comp violations and track the status of the complaint.

Since the Whistleblower web site was launched in June, CFO Sink’s Division of Workers’ Comp has already received over 700 referrals, resulting in 85 stop-work orders and over $3 million in assessed penalties.

 To view this new tool, visit: https://apps.fldfs.com/NonCompliance_Referral/mainpage.aspx.


CFO Sink encourages Floridians to learn more about senior protection during National Caregivers month

Florida CFO Alex Sink today encouraged Floridians to recognize National Family Caregivers Month by learning more about protecting seniors from financial fraud. Citizens can get more information either by logging on to www.FLseniors.net or by attending one of CFO Sink’s Safeguard Our Seniors forums being held this month around the state by her Department of Financial Services.

“National Caregivers Month is an important opportunity to recognize the family members, friends and caregivers who care for and advocate on behalf of Florida seniors,” said CFO Sink. “Eighty percent of long-term care is provided by family or friends, and we all owe a debt of gratitude to those caregivers who give their own time and resources to benefit the lives of others.”

CFO Sink’s Safeguard our Seniors initiative, launched more than a year ago in response to increasing reports of financial fraud targeting seniors, is focusing this month on educating and informing caregivers about how they can help protect the seniors they care for from financial fraud.

CFO Sink encouraged caregivers to review the following tips to protect the seniors they care for from financial fraud:

For more information on CFO Sink’s Safeguard Our Seniors initiative, visit www.FLSeniors.net or call the Consumer Helpline at (850) 413-3089 or toll-free at 1-877-MY-FL-CFO (1-877-693-5236).


Florida Insurance Consumer Advocate To Host Claims Dispute Resolution Roundtable Insurance Consumer Advocate

Sean ShawIn July, Florida Insurance Consumer Advocate Sean Shaw hosted a roundtable to bring together members of the insurance industry and the home builders’ industry to discuss how disputed claim issues could be identified and resolved in a fair manner. During that meeting, the participants identified several issues as contributing to claim disputes and made recommendations to address each issue. In order to continue this important work, the Roundtable will meet again to finalize their recommendations. The Roundtable’s goal is to establish better communication and processes, so that in the future Florida homeowners can quickly get back into their homes after a loss, mitigate further damage to the property, hold down the cost of their claims and allow contractors to start repairs without delays.

DATE: Wednesday, November 18, 2009
TIME: 9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m., 1:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.
LOCATION: House Office Building, 4th Floor - Committee Room 404
The Capitol, Tallahassee, FL 32399

A copy of the agenda is available on the Florida Insurance Advocates Website at: http://www.myfloridacfo.com/ICA/ClaimsDisputeResolutionRoundtable.asp.

Public Comments will be heard in the afternoon session. Those unable to attend the meeting may listen via conference call at Dial-in Number: (888) 808-6959, Conference Code: 4132880 or watch the roundtable on the Florida Channel’s website at http://www.wfsu.org/tfc/index.php.

The Insurance Consumer Advocate is appointed by Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink and is committed to finding solutions to insurance issues facing Floridians, calling attention to questionable insurance practices, promoting a viable insurance market responsive to the needs of Florida’s diverse population and assuring that rates are fair and justified.


Safeguard Our SeniorsSafeguard Our Seniors veterans celebration draws 250 attendees

About 250 Cape Coral-area veterans and their guests attended CFO Sink’s Safeguard Our Seniors forum on Tuesday to learn more about veterans benefits and financial scams targeting veterans.

Attendees were also able to view an artist’s rendering of the new VA Medical Outpatient Clinic being built in Cape Coral. It is scheduled for completion in 1012.Safeguard Our Seniors meeting

Numerous agencies were invited to present information to the Veterans and answer their questions:

During the program, two veterans discovered they were eligible for medical services through the VA hospital, which will save them money on their medical expenses.

The program was held in the Cape Coral Public Library, and opened with the Mariner High School JROTC presenting the colors and leading the Pledge of Allegiance.


Long-term-care Awareness MonthWhat you should know about buying long-term care insurance

Long-term care is different from traditional medical care. Someone with a prolonged physical illness, a disability or a cognitive impairment such as Alzheimer’s disease often needs long-term care, which includes help with daily activities, home health care, respite care, hospice care, adult day care, care in a nursing home or care in an assisted living facility.

Long-term care can be expensive, depending on the amount and type of care you need and where you get it. In 2001, the national average cost of nursing home care was $56,000 per year with assisted living facilities reporting a cost of $22,476 per year and home care costs ranging from $12,000 to $16,000 per year.

You can pay for long-term care in a variety of ways, including personal resources, long-term care insurance and Medicaid for those who qualify. Long-term care insurance will pay for some or all of your long-term care.

Whether you should buy a long-term care insurance policy will depend on your age, health status overall retirement goals, income and assets. For instance, if your only source of income is a Social Security benefit or Supplemental Security Income (SSI), you probably should not buy long-term care insurance since you may not be able to afford the premium. On the other hand, if you have a large amount of assets but do not want to use them to pay for long-term care, you may want to buy a long-term care insurance policy. Many people buy a policy because they do not want to burden family or rely on government help.

A long-term care insurance policy usually defines a pre-existing condition as one for which you received medical advice or treatment or had symptoms within a certain period before you applied for the policy. The policy may not pay benefits for long-term care related to a pre-existing condition for a period after the policy goes into effect, usually six months. Some companies have longer pre-existing condition periods or none at all.

Before purchasing a long-term care policy, check with several agents and companies to compare benefits and rates, and make sure that the agent and company are licensed by checking the CFO's web site at http://www.MyFloridaCFO.com.

Review your policy carefully. After purchasing long-term care insurance, read the policy and make certain you understand its contents. If you have questions about your insurance policy, contact your insurance agent for clarification. If you still have questions, turn to the Florida Department of Financial Services Consumer Helpline at 1-877-MY-FL-CFO (1-877-693-5236.)


Florida Housing HelpFlorida Housing Help reaches Port St. Joe and Orlando

This Saturday, November 14, CFO Sink will holdFlorida Housing Help a Florida Housing Help workshop in Port St. Joe to help struggling homeowners find solutions to stay in their homes.

The workshop will be held at Oak Grove Church from 10:00 a.m. -1:00 p.m. This workshop is being held in partnership with the Gulf County Chamber of Commerce and will include partners such as Gulf County Emergency Management, the Gulf County Economic Development Council, Gulf County Community Development Corporation, Tallahassee Lenders Consortium, and Gulf County SHIP.

For more information on this event, visit http://www.myfloridacfo.com/Consumers/OutReach/FLHousingHelp.asp.

On Saturday, November 7, CFO Sink partnered with the City of Orlando and Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer and City Commissioner Tony Ortiz to host a Florida Housing Help workshop that assisted nearly 300 consumers.

One of those consumers, a 91-year-old gentleman, came to the event thinking he was about to lose his home as well as face other legal challenges. As a result of the attending the workshop, he was able to talk to his lender, Chase Bank, and get a reprieve on his mortgage, as well as receive free legal assistance from the attorneys on hand.

For information on Florida Housing Help, visit www.MyFloridaCFO.com/FloridaHousingHelp or call the Consumer Services Helpline at (850) 413-3089 or toll-free at 1-877-MY-FL-CFO (1-877-693-5236).

Upcoming Florida Housing Help events:

Saturday, November 14 from 10:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m. Florida Housing Help Oak Grove Church, 613 Madison St., Port St. Joe

Wednesday, November 18 from 5:00 p.m.-8:00 p.m. Florida Housing Help Joseph P. D'Alessandro Office Complex (State Building), 2295 Victoria Ave., Fort Myers

Wednesday, November 19 from 2:00 p.m.-8:00 p.m. HOPE NOW Alliance Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena, 300 A. Philip Randolph Boulevard, Jacksonville

Wednesday, November 25 from 5:00 p.m.-8:00 p.m. War on Poverty-Florida (inside Gateway Mall) Gateway Mall, 5196-A Norwood Ave, Jacksonville


Hurricane Season: Are you prepared?Learn to identify hazards after a disaster

Each year, Floridians encounter natural disasters such as hurricanes or tornados. The following are hazards you should prepare to look for to protect yourself and your family after a hurricane or tornado:

Chemical Safety

Electrical Safety

Gas Safety

Generator Safety

Heating Safety

And remember...

Source: FEMA

Consumer CornerBe in the driver's seat when considering a motor vehicle service agreement

Whether shopping for a new car or possibly buying an extended warranty to cover a vehicle you already have, CFO Sink advises consumers to shop around and weigh the benefits of a motor vehicle service agreement before buying it.

A motor vehicle service agreement is a contract or agreement between the owner or leaser of a vehicle and the company providing coverage. The agreement provides coverage, as specified in the service agreement, for a new or used vehicle, usually covering against loss due to failure of a mechanical or other component part or a mechanical or other component part that fails to function as originally intended. These contracts usually provide coverage only after the manufacturer’s warranty expires.

Since January 2008, the department has assisted about 1,100 consumers with questions and complaints about motor vehicle service agreements, including more than 500 with claims-related complaints and more than 300 complaints regarding premium refunds.

By purchasing a motor vehicle service agreement, the consumer is considering the fact that they might need repairs not covered by the manufacturer’s warranty, and those repairs will be covered by the service contract. Consumers need to be aware of dual coverage and what the manufacturer’s warranty normally covers.

A motor vehicle service agreement company must have a license to sell this product in Florida, pursuant to Section 634.031, Florida Statutes, so consumers should verify the insurer is licensed.

Consumers should read prospective motor vehicle service agreements carefully. Some start when you drive your car off the lot, which would be duplication of coverage if you purchased a new or relatively new vehicle. Some start at the time the original manufacturer’s warranty ends. Since these warranties are optional, consumers should verify that the charge for one has not been rolled in to a vehicle's price.

Before buying a service warranty, consider the following consumer tips:

Consumers should be aware that there are often requirements they must meet in order to collect a claim on such an agreement, including regular maintenance and records documenting maintenance. In addition, any customization of vehicles may void coverage.


My Family CFOBe wary of those who claim you can earn thousands from home

You can find ads like this headline everywhere - from the telephone pole on your corner to the email in your inbox. While you may find these ads appealing, proceed with caution. Not all work-at-home opportunities deliver on their promises.

Most ads omit the fact that you may have to work many hours without pay or that you may have to find your own clients. They also might not disclose all the costs you will have to pay up front or invest. Many work-at-home schemes require you to spend your own money to place newspaper ads, make photocopies, or buy the envelopes, paper, stamps, and other supplies or equipment you need to do the job. You may have to pay for instructions or tutorial software just to understand what the work is all about.

Consumers taken in by these ads have lost thousands of dollars and have wasted a lot of time and energy.

Check out the company offering the deal with your local consumer protection agency before you invest any money or time. Find out whether complaints have been received about the work-at-home program that interests you, but be wary. The absence of complaints doesn’t necessarily mean the company is legitimate. Unscrupulous companies may settle complaints quickly, change their names or move to avoid criticism.


Saving Energy, Saving MoneyFind these hotspots in your Home

Now that weather is cooler, it is a good time to make sure your house is on a “low carbon diet.” This translates to ensuring that you are emitting less carbon and also minimizing your energy bills. Here are six household hotspots upon which to focus:

1. Air leaks – you can increase household energy efficiency by plugging up drafts.

2. Inadequate insulation – check around pipes and in attics to make sure you have appropriate insulation that cuts down on energy costs.

3. Hot water heaters – If your water heater is over five years old, wrap it in an insulating jacket. Turn down its thermostat to less than 120 degrees; this will not only save money, but it is safer if the hot water is not scalding when children turn on the hot water tap.

4. Cooking – Microwave ovens use 2/3 less energy than conventional ovens. Crock pots, pressure cookers and toaster ovens can also substitute for full-sized ovens.

5. Light bulbs – If everyone in Memphis, Tennessee, replaced just two regular 60-watt bulbs with compact fluorescents, the energy savings would power Hartford, Connecticut, for three weeks!

6. Appliances and electronics – Run full loads of laundry and use cold water if possible. Use energy saver settings on your computer to lower energy usage. Buy a new, energy-efficient refrigerator to replace a 20-year-old model to cut your carbon dioxide output by one ton per year, and save $65 per year.