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         FLORIDA CHIEF FINANCIAL OFFICER ALEX SINK'S WEEKLY NEWSLETTER

         Volume 5, Number 26, June 27, 2008
        
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Our hearts go out to our neighbors in America’s heartland as they begin to recover from the flooding that has devastated so many Midwestern communities. The American Red Cross reports that their domestic Disaster Relief Fund has been wiped out by flood relief expenses that already have topped $15 million. Projections for the remaining clean up and recovery costs are estimated at billions of dollars.

This terrible disaster, on the heels of wildfires and other catastrophic events earlier this year, is clear evidence that the argument against a national catastrophe fund – because it would only benefit coastal, hurricane-prone states – just doesn’t hold up anymore.

Here at home, we strongly encourage you to sign up for a free wind inspection from the My Safe Florida Home program before the remaining 20,000 available inspections are gone. Homeowners receive a detailed inspection report making recommendations to fortify their homes against Florida’s seasonal storms and identifying existing construction features in the home that may qualify for homeowners insurance premium discounts. If you have a single-family, site-built home, please visit the Web site  www.mysafefloridahome.com to schedule your free inspection today.


CFO SINK INTRODUCES NEWLY APPOINTED DEPUTY CHIEF FINANCIAL OFFICER

Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink would like to share the good news - Tammy Teston, an accomplished former banker and businesswoman, has joined the Department of Financial Services as Deputy Chief Financial Officer. Ms. Teston joins the many talented individuals on the DFS team who are committed to making the department even more dynamic in its approach to good government.

An experienced financial professional, Tammy most recently served as the Senior Vice President and Market Director for Bank of America Investment Services in Sarasota. With more than twenty years in the banking industry, Tammy has successfully revitalized underperforming banking centers and markets. She has also helped lead integration efforts during banking mergers and boosted employee morale while strengthening banking customer service operations.

Tammy received a Master of Business Administration from Georgia State University and a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from the University of Florida.

With oversight of the Divisions of Consumer Services; Agent and Agencies; Funeral, Cemetery and Consumer Services; Rehabilitation and Liquidation; and the My Safe Florida Home program, Tammy will help lead many of the areas responsible for educating and protecting Floridians.


OVER 365,000 FLORIDA HOMEOWNERS SERVED, MY SAFE FLORIDA HOME PROGRAM APPROACHING GOALS
Only 35,000 Free Wind Inspections Remain, Program On Pace to Halt Sign-ups By End of Summer

Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink today announced that more than 365,000 Florida homeowners have signed up for free wind inspections through the My Safe Florida Home (MSFH) program, only 35,000 inspections shy of the Florida Legislature’s goal of 400,000 free wind inspections by June 2009. The popular first-come, first-serve program will continue accepting applications online and over the phone until it meets the 400,000 application goal.  

Participating homeowners receive a free wind inspection report, which suggests ways homeowners can harden their homes against storm damage and informs homeowners if they are currently eligible to save money on their wind insurance premiums.  To date, 60 percent of homeowners who have received a free wind inspection are eligible for discounts on their wind insurance premiums averaging $220 statewide. 

In 2007, the Florida Legislature directed the MSFH program to provide inspections for at least 400,000 site-built, single-family, residential properties and provide grants to at least 35,000 applicants before June 30, 2009.  Last month CFO Sink announced that the program had exceeded its grant goals and would transition to inspections only. To date, the MSFH program, including local government and non-profits, has approved approximately 38,889 homeowners for mitigation grants and has paid 18,465 grants totaling more than $62.9 million.

Any Floridian who lives in a single-family, site-built home is eligible for a free wind inspection through the MSFH program. Floridians can apply online at  www.MySafeFloridaHome.com or by calling the program toll-free at 1-866-513-6734.  Homeowners who receive free wind inspections through the MSFH program will receive a detailed inspection report, complete with additional information on estimated insurance premium discounts, if the homeowner is eligible.


BOYS STATE CFO VISITS CFO SINK'S OFFICE

The newly elected Chief Financial Officer of this year's Boys State, Frederick Newbill of Davison City, toured CFO Alex Sink's office on Friday to better understand the responsibilities of this elected office.

Boys State is a comprehensive one-week leadership course in state and local government, developed to offer youth a better perspective of the practical operation of government and to show that the individual is responsible for the character and success of government. Delegates who are selected to attend this program will "learn by doing" as they progress through the various phases of government.

Florida American Legion Boys State is a "leadership action program" where qualified male high school juniors take part in a practical government course. It is designed to develop a working knowledge of the structure of government and to impress upon each delegate that our government is what we make it. They will have the opportunity to learn the political process. Each level of government will be run by those delegates who are elected to serve. Instruction will be presented on the law and court system, legislative procedure, and Florida political history.


Money-Smart Idea of the Week

Idea:  Five Tips to Help Close the Fiscal Year

As the fiscal year draws to a close, many businesses are preparing for a rush of year-end activities. Here are some helpful tips to ensure that the end of your fiscal year goes as smoothly as possible.

  • Tip 1:  Continue to deliver what the customers need. Don’t get caught up in the complexity of the closing season and forget to respond to consumers needs.
  • Tip 2:  Get government reports done on time!
    • Find/read through closing documentation
    • Schedule time to do year end closing
    • Develop a work plan
    • Back up all data before and after closing procedures
    • Double check employee information
  • Tip 3:  Show appreciation for your employees. This boosts morale and gives motivation during hectic times
  • Tip 4:  Plan the budget for next year. Set aside time during this hectic season to plan a more accurate budget for the next fiscal year
  • Tip 5:  If you are planning on changing accounting systems, now would be the best time. Implementing a new accounting system at the end of the fiscal year will be easier and less costly than a midyear switch

MY SAFE FLORIDA HOME ADVISORY COUNCIL MET WEDNESDAY IN TALLAHASSEE

Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink convened the My Safe Florida Home (MSFH) Advisory Council meeting on Wednesday, June 25, in Tallahassee.

The council authorized by Section 215.5586, Florida Statutes, was created to provide advice and assistance to the Department of Financial Services (DFS) regarding the administration of the MSFH program. CFO Sink will use the council’s findings to further improve the services provided to Floridians through the program.

The My Safe Florida Home program, re-launched by CFO Sink in April 2007, has signed up more than 365,000 homeowners for free wind inspections. Participating homeowners receive wind inspection reports, which suggest ways homeowners can harden their homes against storm damage and inform homeowners if they are currently eligible to save money on their wind insurance premiums.

For more information on the MSFH program or the council visit www.MySafeFloridaHome.com or call the program toll-free at 1-866-513-6734. On the Web site, Floridians can link to information on the council, its agenda and upcoming meetings.


CFO SINK REMINDS FLORIDIANS MOST HOMEOWNERS POLICIES DO NOT COVER FLOOD DAMAGES

Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink urged Florida homeowners to review their insurance policies, reminding homeowners that standard homeowners insurance policies do not cover flood damages, even when the flood is caused by a hurricane.

A national consumer public opinion survey of 1,004 individuals, conducted by Opinion Research Corporation (ORC) during the period of May 15-18, 2008, revealed a growing number of residents in Gulf Coast states are non-renewing their flood coverage.

While residents in both the Northeastern and Western regions of the United States are seeing a growth in flood insurance policies, slightly fewer homeowners in the South now say they have flood insurance - 17 percent compared with 20 percent a year ago - according to the ORC poll. These findings are consistent with National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) data that shows an increase in the number of people non-renewing flood policies in Gulf Coast states.

The decrease in Gulf Coast flood policyholders comes three years after Hurricane Katrina inflicted massive damage - mostly from flooding - upon New Orleans and Mississippi, and just as floods are devastating homes and property in Iowa. Oftentimes, victims without flood insurance lose everything.

Flood insurance is a special policy that is federally backed by the NFIP and available for homeowners, renters and businesses. The standard flood insurance policy pays for direct physical damage to the insured property up to the replacement cost or actual cash value of actual damages or the policy limit of liability, whichever is less.

Homeowners may purchase flood insurance covering up to $250,000 of flood damage to a home. A standard flood policy will cover structural damage, including damage to the furnace, water heater, air conditioner, floor surfaces (carpeting and tile) and debris clean-up. The contents of a home are not covered under a standard policy, but for an additional premium, homeowners may also purchase flood coverage for up to $100,000 of damage to personal property.

For more information about flood insurance, visit the NFIP Web site at www.floodsmart.gov.


CFO SINK: TAMPA DUO ARRESTED FOR OVER $40,000 IN PIP-RELATED FRAUD

Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink announced the arrest of two Tampa women on charges they allegedly billed insurance companies for over $40,000 in Personal Injury Protection- (PIP) related fraud charges.

Emilia Morejon, 34, and Yusdelin Castillo Valdes, 24, of Tampa are alleged to have submitted fraudulent bills totaling over $40,000 to several insurance carriers. Morejon, owner of Personal Injury Clinic, and Valdes, the clinic receptionist, submitted fraudulent bills for treatment not rendered. The two were arrested Monday, booked into a Hillsborough County jail, and charged with Second Degree Insurance Fraud and Patient Brokering. If convicted, they could potentially face up to 15-years in prison.

The Department of Financial Services, Division of Insurance Fraud (DIF) was assisted in the investigation by the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) and AIG Insurance.

The cost of insurance fraud is estimated at as much as $1,400 a year in premiums for the average Florida family. The DIF investigates various forms of fraud in insurance, including health, life, auto, property and workers' compensation insurance. Depending on the estimated loss amount, the department will pay up to $25,000 for information directly leading to an arrest and conviction. Anyone with information about this or any other suspected insurance fraud is asked to call the department's Fraud Fighters Hotline at 1-800-378-0445 or log on to www.MyFloridaCFO.com/fraud. Complaints can be tracked online.


FIREFIGHTER AND EMERGENCY MEDICAL SERVICE SAFETY, HEALTH AND SURVIVAL WEEK

June 22-28 marks the national fire and emergency medical service (EMS) safety, health and survival week. The theme of this week is “Committed to Long-Term Results” which encourages firefighters and chiefs to focus on what can be done to reduce firefighter deaths and injuries.

There is a memorial at the Florida State Fire College and a memorial display in the rotunda of the State Capitol that recognize Florida’s Firefighters who have sacrificed their lives in the line of duty. These firefighters are honored, and it is important to do what is necessary so the memorial lists don’t grow longer.

The week focuses activities on three key areas including standard operating procedures, policies, and initiatives, in an effort to reduce fire/EMS personnel risk of injury or death.

Currently, Florida is the only state with an Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) just for the fire service assigned to the Division of State Fire Marshal. The Florida Firefighter Occupational Safety and Health Act is designed to protect Florida firefighters. Also the state has special training programs for firefighter survival and rescue at the Florida State Fire College.

For more information see the Florida Firefighter's Safety and Health page:
http://www.myfloridacfo.com/sfm/bfst/SafetyHealth/FireSafetyandHealth.htm.


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