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My Florida C F O
Weekly eNewsletter from Florida's Chief Financial Officer

Dear Fellow Floridian:

On Thursday, I had the honor of speaking at the Leadership Dinner on U.S.-Israeli relations sponsored by Florida Atlantic University Hillel and Owls for Israel. FAU Hillel and Owls for Israel are tremendous organizations FAU Hillel and Owls for Israel with CFO Atwaterthat aim to celebrate and promote the Jewish identity at FAU. It was truly humbling to be among students with such a great passion for their culture and religion.

According to the Jewish Federations of America, one quarter of Holocaust survivors live below the poverty line. Florida has approximately 12,500 Holocaust survivors. In 1988, more than 40 years after the end of the Second World War, the German government allocated $125 million for reparations, enabling Holocaust survivors to receive monthly payments of $290 for the rest of their lives.

Unfortunately, in order to receive their money, the victims would be wired their payments, which were subject to a $10 to $40 fee per transaction. This fee, essentially a 10 percent tax, is a significant financial burden considering that the vast majority of the victims are elderly and rely on these payments. My office has partnered with 23 (and this number continues to grow!) financial institutions in Florida to waive the wire transfer fee on reparation payments. I’m grateful to say that we were able to do this without any laws or legal wrangling; we were instead simply able to appeal to the humanity of these financial institutions, most of whom instantly recognized that waiving the fee for Holocaust victims is the right thing to do.

While nothing we do can ever repay those who suffered through this atrocity, anything we can do to keep money in their pockets is helpful and is in line with respecting the dignity of these victims. To learn more about the fee waiver program or to get involved with our efforts, visit http://www.myfloridacfo.com/feewaiver/.

Jeff Atwater
Jeff Atwater
Chief Financial Officer
State of Florida

DFS: Supporting Minority-Owned Businesses in Florida

CFO Atwater is dedicated to ensuring every program within the Department of Financial Services (DFS) delivers value to the people of Florida by continually improving the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of its services. This includes encouraging small businesses such as those owned by minorities, women and veterans to participate in government by becoming vendors with the state.

Last year, the Department of Management Services’ Office of Supplier Diversity recognized DFS as the Agency of the Year for supporting Florida’s minority business community during fiscal year 2010-11. That means DFS has conducted business with more minority-owned small businesses to provide goods and services to Floridians. In spite of budget reductions, and without increasing the total funds available for small- and minority-business spending, DFS has worked with minority-, veteran- and women-owned businesses to the tune of $11.6 million this past fiscal year (2011-12)—an increase of more than 26 percent over the previous year. DFS is on track to increase the available funds for these businesses by another $1 million this current fiscal year.

News of Interest

Daytona Beach News-Journal: Voting 'yes' on Amendment 4 could boost Florida's economy

Reuters: Stock futures climb after housing starts surge

Sarasota Herald-Tribune: Idea of luring companies to Florida is gaining currency

Associated Press: Social Security benefits to go up by 1.7 percent

Orlando Business Journal: Publix now offers free Wi-Fi to shoppers

Economic Issues Affect Small Business

While meeting with small business owners, CFO Atwater continued to hear how access to capital was an increasing problem. In order to get to the root of the problem, he partnered with the Florida Chamber Foundation to conduct a survey of community banks and credit unions on critical economic issues impacting Florida’s small businesses. Specifically, the survey found that 96 percent of community banks and credit unions expect to spend considerably more time and money on compliance with new federal regulation over the next three years. Furthermore, 64 percent of community banks and credit unions said their lending to small businesses over the next three years will be negatively affected by the Dodd-Frank Act. Seventy-two percent said that customer service would also be negatively impacted.

To view the full results, visit http://www.myfloridacfo.com/FloridasBottomLine/docs/SmallBusinessSurvey.pdf.

Florida Students $ave Essay Contest

With almost half of graduating high school seniors saying they’re unsure or unprepared to manage their own personal finances, and with the average 23- to 28-year-old carrying more than $14,000 in debt, it’s clear that there is a need to prepare our teens for the opportunities and challenges that their futures hold.Florida Students $ave Essay Contest

Working with Florida Master Money Mentors, The James Madison Institute and the Florida Council on Economic Education, we have developed the Florida Students $ave Essay Contest. The contest is part of the Your Money Matters education initiative, which aims to equip Floridians with financial knowledge in an easy and accessible way.

The goal of the contest is to motivate young people to develop personal financial skills and better prepare them for college and the workplace. The contest will award hundreds of dollars to Florida students who present the best research and planning in response to scenarios that reflect on short- and long-term financial goals.

The contest is open to all Florida high school students (public, private, charter, virtual or homeschool) for the 2012-13 school year. From now through Nov. 30, students can submit essays of up to 1,200 words for a chance to win a first-place prize of $250. Second- and third-place winners will receive $150 and $50 respectively. Three winners will be chosen from each of five regions across Florida: Northwest Florida, Jacksonville, Orlando, Tampa and South Florida.

For more information about the essay contest, including a list of contest rules, regions and how to submit an essay, visit www.MyFloridaCFO.com/YMM or call the Division of Consumer Services helpline at 1-877-MY-FL-CFO (693-5236).

Tax Facts for Small Business Owners

Running a small business is a daunting proposition. Supporting Florida’s small business community by connecting them with available resources is critical to our state’s economic recovery. To help small businesses minimize their potential tax burdens, the department is partnering with the Florida Institute of Certified Public Accountants (FICPA) to host one more free webinar titled “Tax Facts: A Guide for Small Business Owners” on Oct. 23. The webinar follows on the heels of the Small Business Leadership Forum recently held in Tampa, with the focus on what can be done to improve the small business ecosystem in the state.

The webinar will provide an overview of key tax law provisions that affect small businesses and outline opportunities for reducing taxes, lowering expenses and making needed capital improvements. It will also cover potential impacts of health insurance changes and the expiration of tax cuts. The webinar will be held:

  • Tuesday, Oct. 23 at 5:30 p.m.

Read the attached flier for more information.