Consumer eViews
FLORIDA CHIEF FINANCIAL OFFICER TOM GALLAGHER'S WEEKLY NEWSLETTER

Volume 3, Number 36, September 4, 2006

Labor Day is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers as a national tribute to those who have built the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.

Labor Day offers us the opportunity to recognize and reflect on the generations of men and women who for more than two centuries have worked to build our country economically and spiritually into this land of bounty and opportunity.

In the tradition of economic and political democracy, it is fitting that the nation pay tribute on Labor Day to the force behind so much of the nation's strength, freedom and leadership — the American worker.

Florida should be proud of the hard work of its residents!

-- Tom Gallagher


2006 UNCLAIMED PROPERTY AUCTIONS EARN MORE THAN $1 MILLION FOR FLORIDA SCHOOLS
Program has pumped more than $1.6 billion into public schools

Tom Gallagher, Florida’s chief financial officer, announced that an unclaimed property auction held in Tampa drew more than 300 people and earned nearly $500,000 that will go into the state’s public school trust fund. Combined with the proceeds of an auction held in Jacksonville in July, more than $1 million will be added to the school coffers, which is a record amount from auction proceeds.

“This program is a win-win for everyone,” said Gallagher, who oversees the Department of Financial Services and the Bureau of Unclaimed Property. “We set another new record last fiscal year by returning more than $100 million worth of cash and property to the rightful owners, but in the meantime, Florida’s school children benefit by use of the funds for education.”

A 2-carat ladies wedding ring set took the top bid of $13,000 among the 32,000 items that were auctioned Saturday at the Sheraton Tampa Riverwalk Hotel. Other items auctioned included rare coins, currency, signed baseball cards, watches and silver place settings.

The auction items were remitted to the state from abandoned safe deposit boxes. In addition to money from the auction of safe deposit box contents, unclaimed property also includes bank accounts, unclaimed wages, checks, deposits, credit balances, insurance benefits and securities. The department currently holds unclaimed property accounts valued at more than $1.3 billion.

Claiming unclaimed property from the state is free, and owners or heirs can claim it at any time. The department also has a website, www.fltreasurehunt.org, and a toll-free hotline, 1-88-VALUABLE, where citizens can regularly check to see if the state is holding unclaimed property for them.


GALLAGHER URGES SAVINGS FOR FLORIDA’S SMALL BUSINESSES
Workers’ Compensation Rates May Decrease by Another 13 Percent, Saving Employers Over $400 Million

Tom Gallagher, Florida’s chief financial officer, urged Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty to help save Florida employers more than $400 million by approving a statewide rate decrease of 13 percent on workers’ compensation rates. If approved, this year’s decrease would be the fourth consecutive rate decrease in workers’ compensation rates since 2003, for a cumulative drop of nearly 46 percent.

“Lowering rates and cutting costs will help Florida’s small-businesses create new jobs and grow our economy,” said Gallagher, who oversees the Florida Department of Financial Services and the divisions of Insurance Fraud and Workers' Compensation.

“We have aggressively fought to combat workers’ compensation fraud, and doubled the number of annual fraud arrests,” Gallagher said. “Our compliance efforts have also added over $52 million in evaded premium to our state’s workers' compensation system and ensured that nearly 21,000 employees have coverage.”


MYTHS AND FACTS ABOUT HURRICANE-PROOFING YOUR HOME

MYTH: Homes built in Florida before 1992 were built to withstand a category 3 hurricane.

FACT: Hurricane Andrew in 1992 highlighted the vulnerability of Florida’s building standards. The Florida Building Code Commission was established in the late 1990s in response to the devastation caused by Hurricane Andrew. This mandated a single, statewide building code that featured tougher standards to ensure that structures would withstand major hurricane-level winds. Miami-Dade County building codes adopted as a result are the toughest in the state, and among the toughest in the nation.

MYTH: Taping windows with masking tape is an effective way to prevent shattered glass and damage to a home during a hurricane.

FACT: Impact-resistant glass and shutters are specifically designed to meet a combination of impact and continuous pressure from the wind. Windows are a critical barrier to protect your home from wind, wind-borne debris and water. If your windows are breached, this can exert pressure on your roof and walls, causing the collapse of the home. Much of the damage that occurred from Hurricane Andrew resulted from failure of windows and doors. These failures frequently lead to interior wall failure and sometimes roof failures. (NOAA)

FACT: The openings (doors and windows) are your homes primary defense against a storm. A garage door is the most frequent source of damage due to collapse or failure from storm surge or wind.  A reinforced garage door will prevent the largest opening in the house from being compromised during a storm. If the garage door gives in, the home is defenseless against the wind and rain of the storm. 

MYTH: Residents who stay in their homes and hold the doors closed against the wind have swifter hurricane recoveries.

FACT: Injuries from hurricanes often occur when people use their own bodies to defend their homes against wind and wind-borne debris. A category 3 hurricane will bring winds traveling 111-130 mph. The greatest threat from a hurricane's winds is the debris, a deadly barrage of flying missiles such as lawn furniture, signs, roofing, and metal siding.

MYTH: The cost of hurricane-proofing a home is not worth the money.

FACT: The four hurricanes of the 2004 season resulted in 1.66 million insurance claims totaling more than $20 billion in insured losses, for an average claim of $20,000. In Florida, one in every five homes was damaged. Storm after storm revealed that homes built in compliance with the Florida Building Code fared much better than those that did not. Homes that were “hardened” with hurricane-strengthening features sustained less damage than those that had not been retrofitted with these features.

FACT: Investing in hurricane-resistant measures increases a home’s value. Residents who invest in hurricane-resistant doors and windows experience less damage, file fewer and lower insurance claims and are open for business or back in their homes sooner than those that do not.


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