Dear Fellow Floridian:
The back-to-school sales tax holiday begins today and continues throughout this weekend, August 2-4. I encourage Florida families and students to take advantage of this opportunity and save on much-needed items as the school year nears. This weekend is also a great time for families and students to review their financial plan or to create one if they have not already done so.
My Department of Financial Services’ Your Money Matter$ initiative offers students and families alike information that will help them stay in control of their finances. It outlines financial aid options, how financial need is determined, how to calculate the true cost of education, and how to complete the financial aid application process. It also includes financial calculators to help you explore your own financial information in detail and assess financial choices.
Studies show that two-thirds of graduates who earn four-year bachelor degrees have an average student loan debt of more than $26,000 upon graduation, with a quarter of graduates owing more than $54,000. However, despite the cost, education remains the foundation of a stable future, and it's not just for an individual, but for our entire state.
You hold the keys to creating a better financial future for yourself, your family and our state. It starts at home, so talk with your family, discuss financial options and set a strong example. Take control of your finances today so your finances won’t control you in the future.
Chief Financial Officer
State of Florida
'Be Scam Smart' Workshop for Seniors
CFO Atwater partnered with the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office to offer a Be Scam Smart Workshop for seniors as part of his Operation S.A.F.E. (Stop Adult Financial Exploitation) initiative. This workshop was the first of seven
Be Scam Smart workshops being held throughout Florida in August.
The next one is on August 14 in Orlando.
Operation S.A.F.E. helps protect seniors by educating them about scams such as fake lotteries and repair scams, and how these scams work. The initiative was launched in May with workshops in Cape Coral, Venice, Delray Beach, Clearwater, the Villages and Miami. Operation S.A.F.E. is part of CFO Atwater’s On Guard for Seniors initiative, which educates seniors on specific financial topics such as annuities, identity theft, reverse mortgages and long-term care insurance. The Escambia County Sheriff’s Office participated in the August 1 workshop by discussing local scams affecting seniors such as the grandparent scam, telemarketing scams and contractor fraud.
To see a calendar of workshops, register for a workshop, or share a flyer with friends and family, visit
or call the CFO’s Consumer Helpline at 877-MY-FL-CFO (877-693-5236).
Five Arrested, Accused of More than $130,000 in Workers’ Compensation Fraud
CFO Atwater has announced the arrests of Otto Biltres, Tampa, 41; Charles Brown, Tarpon Springs, 38; Kelly Bree Brown, Tarpon Springs, 34; Johnny Alton Lewis, Clearwater, 51; and Joseph T. Jordan, Palm Harbor, 50, for an organized scheme to defraud and operating without an insurance license.
An investigation by the Department of Financial Services’ Division of Insurance Fraud revealed that Otto Biltres, owner of a temporary staffing agency called Preferred Staffing of America, Inc., knowingly misled consumers into believing that his company was a licensed professional employer organization (PEO) and could perform PEO services such as providing workers’ compensation insurance coverage to client companies. Biltres charged client companies more than $130,000 for services and workers’ compensation insurance that were never provided.
Anyone with information of suspected insurance fraud is asked to call 800-378-0445. Citizens who provide tips can remain anonymous. The Department of Financial Services to date has awarded almost $275,000 to more than 40 citizens as part of its Anti-Fraud Reward Program. The program rewards individuals up to $25,000 for information that directly leads to an arrest and conviction in an insurance fraud scheme.
Innovation Drives Florida's Economy
Florida has worked hard to create an environment for long-term growth and
investment that allows businesses to better serve their communities and
employ more of their neighbors. This culture of economic innovation has
to be recognized as the “Most Innovative State in the Nation” by
Fast Company magazine this year.
Beginning with this edition on biotechnology,
Florida’s Bottom Line is presenting a three-part series on
Innovative Florida, highlighting the people and
industries that are driving our future as a diversified economy. We are now
recognized as one of the most attractive areas worldwide for the
biotechnology industry, with more than 200 biotechnology companies calling
The quarterly edition of Florida's Bottom Line is
complemented by its often-updated website,
www.MyFloridaCFO.com/FloridasBottomLine. When new
economic data is released, it can be found here. Florida's consumer
confidence, retail index, employment statistics and various other
resources will keep you up-to-date.