Consumer eViews
         FLORIDA CHIEF FINANCIAL OFFICER ALEX SINK'S WEEKLY NEWSLETTER

         Volume 5, Number 23, June 6, 2008
        
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To protect our homes and families during hurricane season, it is just as essential to have a financial plan as it is to have a safety plan. Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink is encouraging the use of the Homeowners’ Financial Tool Kit, which helps Floridians make critical financial decisions during hurricane season.

The Homeowners’ Financial Tool Kit is available at CFO Sink’s Web site, www.MyFloridaCFO.com, under the “Hurricane Season 2008” button. In the financial tool kit, Floridians can find hurricane preparedness tips, emergency contact resources and essential information for residents needing to file a claim. Floridians also can ask to have a Homeowners’ Financial Tool Kit mailed to them by calling the Consumer Services helpline, 1-877-MY-FL-CFO.

In addition to the toolkit, CFO Sink’s Web site contains information on how to file an insurance claim, answers to the most-frequently-asked insurance questions, and disaster preparedness guides in both English and Spanish. Floridians can also find links to other hurricane-related resources, including the Florida Division of Emergency Management, National Flood Insurance Program, Federal Emergency Management Agency, American Red Cross, My Safe Florida Home program and more.


CFO SINK CONGRATULATES STATE EMPLOYEES FOR SAVING FLORIDIANS' TAX DOLLARS

This year celebrates the 20th anniversary of the Prudential-Davis Productivity Awards. The awards are presented annually to state employees who exceed performance expectations in ways that improve core state functions and save money for Florida taxpayers and businesses.  Chief Financial Officer Sink spoke at the awards ceremony Tuesday night, thanking the winners for their dedication to the people of our state and for going beyond the call of duty to increase public service productivity and promote innovative ideas.

In the Department of Financial Services, 158 state employees received recognition for their outstanding achievements, including eight cash awards, 11 plaque awards, and seven certificates of commendation.  

Teams within the Department of Financial Services charged with safeguarding citizens’ financial interests were responsible for ending a string of abusive annuity sales to elderly citizens, protecting seniors from unscrupulous insurance agents, increasing productivity in combating insurance fraud, improving safety of the insurance marketplace, and advising state employees of the benefits of deferred compensation.  Other awards ranged from saving taxpayer money through increased efficiency, putting arsonists behind bars, and making payroll improvements.


Money-Smart Idea of the Week

Idea: Save gas, support your community

You can save money and support local businesses by eating, shopping and entertaining locally! Save some gas, time and money by remembering what makes your community and neighborhood great. Try walking or taking a bike to lunch or dinner at a local eatery. By the end of the summer you will have shed some weight, saved some cash, and helped your local economy.


CFO SINK RETURNS SIX FIGURE CHECK TO GAINESVILLE RESIDENT

Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink returned a check for nearly $160,000 in unclaimed property to a Gainesville real estate developer along with a reminder about the importance of regularly checking Florida’s unclaimed property Web site, www.FLTreasureHunt.org.

As CFO, Sink oversees the state’s Bureau of Unclaimed Property, which holds nearly eight million unclaimed property accounts valued at $1.5 billion.

“With millions of accounts, the chances are good we are holding your cash or the cash of someone you know,” said CFO Sink. “We do our best to find and notify owners, but I encourage all Floridians to visit our Web site to see if we are holding your cash or property.”

G.W. Robinson, owner of G.W. Robinson Builders, Inc., in Gainesville, was contacted by CFO Sink’s bureau in March of this year regarding $159,403.19 in unclaimed cash, mostly from dormant securities that had been turned over to the state.

“I am so grateful to CFO Alex Sink and her staff for reuniting me with my unclaimed funds, said G.W. Robinson. “I hope Floridians will take note of my story, and check to see if the state of Florida is holding lost treasure for their friends and family members.”

Florida is considered one of the nation’s most effective and efficient unclaimed property programs, returning nearly $172 million last fiscal year to Floridians on more than 254,000 approved claims. Currently there are 82,582 unclaimed property accounts for a total of $9.2 million in Alachua County, 7,963 accounts for $782,531 in Bradford County, 55,960 accounts for $6.9 million in Marion County, 1,698 accounts totaling $156,242 million in Union County, 6,275 accounts totaling $1.1 million in Gilchrist County, and 10,883 accounts totaling $1.1 million in Levy County. Unclaimed Property can be claimed free of charge, at any time, by visiting www.fltreasurehunt.org, or by calling 1-88-VALUABLE.

Until claimed, unclaimed property is deposited into the State School Trust Fund, and allocated by the Legislature for education. More than $1.5 billion has benefited Florida public schools since the program’s inception in 1961.


CFO SINK STRESSES HONESTY AND INTEGRITY AT ETHICS FORUM IN PALM BEACH COUNTY

Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink was the keynote speaker at an Ethics Forum hosted by the nonprofit group Leadership Palm Beach County in West Palm Beach. About 100 people listened as CFO Sink spoke about the importance of leadership and ethics. 

CFO Sink recalled that her first experience with ethics began at seven, when she tried to blame her four-year-old sister for carving the alphabet on a wooden table.  This experience taught her early on about the importance of ethical behavior; which she has carried throughout her career.  She gave several examples of how her  Department of Financial Services (DFS) operates in an open and honest way. 

 CFO Sink spoke to the assembled local leaders about the importance of establishing solid checks and balances.  She also discussed the DFS Office of Fiscal Integrity, which investigates the fraudulent use of tax dollars.  


DISASTER AND STORM INFORMATION AND PLANNING

When it comes to hurricanes and tropical storms, Floridians have learned first hand that it pays to be prepared. To assist you with your preparations, Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink wants you to have information that can help you lessen the impact of a major storm or hurricane.

GET PREPARED
Hurricanes can cause severe damage. Before a hurricane hits, you should take steps to protect your property and lessen damages from hurricanes. CFO Sink's Department of Financial Services has a Natural Disaster guide to help you prepare for disasters. You can also visit the state’s official emergency response Web site to learn more about how to create a plan for your family or business.

CONSUMER HELPLINE
When a tropical storm or hurricane is projected to hit our state, we activate a special consumer helpline for Floridians to seek assistance on insurance matters. The number is 1-800-22-STORM, or 1-800-227-8676. Hearing-impaired residents may use a TDD to call 1-800-640-0886.

If you have a problem with a claim, you can file a request for assistance online with the Florida Department of Financial Services and, you can look up licensing information on insurance agents and adjusters.

MITIGATION
Long-term, mitigation is the best way to reduce the potential threat of damage from a hurricane or tropical storm. For more information on what steps to take to harden your home, please visit My Safe Florida Home. By mitigating your home, you may also be entitled to discounts on your insurance premiums. For more information on these discounts, click here.


CFO SPEAKS WITH FLASHPOINT ON 'WHO'S MINDING THE BOOKS" IN FLORIDA

Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink sat down with Local 6 TV reporter Lauren Rowe  to discuss "who is minding the books."  Sink's interview aired on the weekly current affairs show, "Flashpoint."

http://www.local6.com/news/16457627/detail.html


CITIZENS CLAIMS HANDLING TASK FORCE MEETS ON MONDAY

The Task Force on Citizens Property Insurance Claims Handling and Resolution will have a conference call meeting on Monday, June 9, 2008, at 2:00 pm.  The focus of the meeting will be to review and approve the final report.  Both documents are posted on the Task Force’s website. The Web site is: http://taskforceoncitizensclaimshandling.org/ 

Conference Call Information

Date:                Monday, June 9, 2008
Time:                2:00 pm – 4:00 pm
Dial-In Number: (888) 808-6959  Conference Code: 4132880


Consumer Services Helpline 1-877-My-FL-CFO
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