FLORIDA CHIEF FINANCIAL OFFICER
Volume 5, Number 35,
August 29, 2008
Tropical Storm Fay gave Florida a soaking of record
proportions that left a very strong message - get flood
insurance for your property from the
National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). There is a
30-day waiting period until the coverage goes into effect,
so don't delay!
Examine your homeowners insurance policies so you know what
damage is covered when a storm hits. Check with your agent
to clarify your understanding or improve your coverage
before the next storm. Keep your insurance information in an
easily accessible place and if you must evacuate, take if
with you so you can reach your agent or company claims
department after a storm.
Remember, if a storm is not officially designated a
hurricane, the standard deductible applies, not the higher
Trees and limbs that have fallen can be dangerous and should
be handled by experienced workers. Many accidents occur when
trying to clear downed trees after the storm -
chainsaws, big trees, fallen electrical wires, and
inexperience can be deadly.
Floridians have filed more than 17,000 insurance claims as
a result of damage from Tropical Storm Fay, thousands of which are for
damage from the unprecedented flooding seen across our state.
Report damage to your property to the Federal Emergency
Management Agency (FEMA) so Florida can receive the federal funds our
citizens need to recover from this storm. You can also call 1-877-MY-FL-CFO
for more information or assistance.
According to FEMA , as Florida counties are declared
eligible for assistance, consumers with damage from Tropical
Storm Fay should call 1-800-621-3362
to apply. Social security numbers, information on any
insurance coverage, brief descriptions of damage done to the
property, the address of the damaged property and current
addresses and phone numbers will need to be provided. The uninsured or underinsured will be more likely to receive
assistance and can expect to receive it within two
FINANCIAL ACTION TEAM MEETS ON THURSDAY,
SEPTEMBER 4, IN TALLAHASSEE
Broad coalition to report on funds available from federal
foreclosure assistance legislation
Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink will host the first
meeting of her recently created "Financial Action Team” on
Thursday, September 4, 2008, to review Florida’s potential
share of the billions in federal dollars available from the
Housing and Economic Recovery Act (HERA) of 2008 to address
the Nation’s foreclosure problems. The meeting will be held
from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. in the Florida Cabinet meeting
room located in the Lower Level of the Capitol.
“Floridians facing economic challenges from the foreclosure
crisis, the softening economy and rising unemployment
related to our housing industry can get some much needed
relief from the benefits being made available through HERA,”
said CFO Sink.
“Our state has a history of leaving federal
money on the table, and I created the 'Financial Action
Team' to help our citizens receive their fair share of
benefits. The potential impact to our economy from this
program is too important to Florida to take any other
Financial Action Team members from a dozen housing,
financial services, government and economic development
organizations have evaluated HERA from their stakeholders’
perspective and will report this week on what’s available,
and the process by which Floridians can apply for and
receive these federal benefits. Next steps include a
Financial Action Team meeting in late September to outline
outreach efforts to educate Floridians about the federal
benefits for which they are eligible.
CFO Sink’s Financial Action Team includes representatives
from the following organizations:
- Florida Bankers
- Florida Credit Union
- Florida Housing Finance
- Florida Association of
- Florida Legal Services
- Florida League of Cities
- Florida Association of
- Department of Veterans’
- City of West Palm Beach
- Florida Tax Watch
- Florida Association of
- Department of Financial
All meetings of the Financial
Action Team will be announced and open to the public.
SINK SURVEYS DAMAGE IN THE BIG
OFFERS ADVICE TO STORM VICTIMS
With Tropical Storm Fay now downgraded to a tropical depression, Florida
Chief Financial Officer and State Fire Marshal Alex Sink surveyed storm
damage in the state’s Big Bend area on Monday, August 25.
“I’ve seen the damage from Tropical Storm Fay firsthand, and I know that
many of our neighbors across Florida are hurting,” said Sink. “They are
picking up the pieces and moving on as best they can. Navigating the
financial and insurance issues after a storm can be stressful and
overwhelming and we want citizens throughout our state to know that we are
here to help.”
Floridians with damage from Tropical Storm Fay are encouraged to contact the
Florida Department of Financial Services Consumer Services Division at
1-877-MY-FL-CFO for help and information. Whether filing a flood or
homeowners insurance claim, or securing a contractor and financing for home
repairs, the CFO’s Consumer Services Division, with bi-lingual specialists,
can help. Information is also available on the department’s website at
www.MyFloridaCFO.com, by clicking
on the “Hurricane Season 2008” button.
Since many homeowners may have already begun filing claims, Sink is urging
residents with claims to verify that they are dealing with a licensed
insurance adjuster by calling the department’s helpline at 1-877-MY-FL-CFO.
Consumers considering the assistance of a public insurance adjuster should
ask for an estimate of fees, charges and the services included, in writing
before signing a contract or any other documents.
Sink has already dispatched several of the department’s investigators and
consumer specialists into storm-damaged areas to be on the lookout for
misconduct and provide assistance.
“Storm victims should also carefully review the damage estimate and any
settlement offer from their adjuster,” Sink said. “Don’t let yourself be
pressured and agree to it if you believe you aren’t being treated fairly.”
As the rebuilding process begins, Sink is encouraging homeowners to consider
storm-resistant construction and materials. More information is available
through the department’s website by clicking on “My Safe Florida Home.”
Residents considering a home loan to finance storm repairs should first
contact FEMA’s disaster assistance program at 1-800-621-3362 to see if they
are eligible for a low-interest loan. If not, those who seek financing
should make sure they understand the interest rate, terms and conditions of
Also, make sure that the contractor you choose to make repairs is licensed
to do the work. Pay the contractor by check, keep receipts and don’t pay
until the work is completed. The contract should include at least the
- Signatures of both the owner and contractor;
- Notice of the right to rescind the contract within 3
- Approximate dates the work will begin and end;
- Amount to be paid, down payment amount and the
difference between those two, as well as any fees for permits, surveys
or other charges;
- Never sign a contract that is left blank in any area
of the contract.
CFO SINK ON FLORIDA’S DEEPENING REVENUE
SHORTFALL AND BUDGET DEFICIT
CFO Sink Calls for Long-Term Thinking and Prioritizing
The following is Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink’s
response to the recent report from the Legislature’s Office
of Economic and Demographic Research:
The latest report shows a looming $3.5 billion budget
shortfall for fiscal year 2009-2010. Although not surprising
and slated for next fiscal year, it dramatically underscores
the severity of Florida’s growing budget deficit.
“I have a tremendous sense of urgency around this situation
and these numbers continue to concern me. As Florida’s Chief
Financial Officer, it’s clear to me that even the most
optimistic scenarios indicate several challenging budget
years ahead for our state. I’m counting on House and Senate
leadership to recognize that this situation requires an
approach that spans the budget horizon of this decade.
“It’s critical that when our new and returning Legislators
arrive in Tallahassee in November that they immediately
tackle this crisis and focus on long-term, critical thinking
that prioritizes the core essential services that protect
“Florida families impacted by the slowing economy and rising
unemployment are forced to make tough choices everyday with
their budget dollars and government must do the same. It is
time for a more surgical and precise approach to funding the
business of our state.”
SAVING ENERGY, SAVING MONEY
Energy tips for Florida families - these actions
represent ways to behave kindly toward Mother Earth,
AND save money as well as
CFO Alex Sink's science advisor Meg Lowman, Ph.D.,
on the faculty at New College of Florida. Dr. Lowman has
written numerous award-winning books and is an
expert on the rain forests of the world.
1. Use cloth, recyclable bags when shopping.
Keep a supply in your car, and get in the habit of taking them into the
grocery store. Encourage local shops to reduce (and eliminate!) their
distribution of paper and plastic bags. And even better, stop using paper or
plastic bags completely!
2. Plant a tree. Trees not only produce oxygen for your personal
health, but they are scientifically proven to absorb odors from the
atmosphere, store carbon dioxide, provide shade, lessen flooding, serve as a
barrier to high wind conditions, and enhance real estate values. This action
is also a great family-fun activity!
3. Shorten your showers. Create a family competition by using a
timer in the bathroom to educate household members about how much water they
are using in that long shower. In Australia and other drought-stricken
countries, showers are strictly limited. Get in the habit of short-showers!
4. Become a “locavore” – meaning, buy local products whenever you can.
This will reduce the energy utilized in transportation, reduce extra costs
of importing goods and services, and also bolster the economy of your local
5. Plant native shrubs and ground cover for landscaping where possible.
This will not only save money in your water bills, but also provide a
Florida-friendly yard that attracts native birds and other wildlife. Visit a
native plant nursery if you need advice.
CFO SINK CHEERS PROPOSED SIXTH CONSECUTIVE
WORKERS’ COMPENSATION RATE DECLINE
Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex
Sink cheered the news today that Florida’s employers could see a sixth
consecutive decline in workers’ compensation rates. The National Council on
Compensation Insurance today filed a request with the Office of Insurance
Regulation for an average 14.1 percent rate decrease, which if approved
would constitute a cost savings of about $465 million for Florida employers
effective January 1, 2009. The cumulative rate decrease since 2003 is 58
percent. A hearing on the proposed rate decrease is expected in October.
“A stable and viable workers’ compensation system is
good for everyone, especially for Florida businesses and their employees –
the backbone of our economy,” said CFO Sink, who oversees the Department of
Financial Services, which includes the Division of Workers’ Compensation, the agency charged with regulating workers’ compensation in
Florida. “No other state has matched Florida’s rate reductions, and no other
state is working harder to take care of employers and employees.”
Augmenting the rate cuts, Division of Workers'
Compensation outreach efforts have resulted in a more than 25-percent
reduction in workers’ compensation lost-time injury rates, and compliance
and enforcement activities have added more than 43,000 employees to the
workers’ compensation system during the last four years.
“By improving compliance, we not only protect more workers but also bring
more premiums into the system, which helps to further reduce rates,” said
Florida is a leader in workers’ compensation rate
reductions and CFO Sink noted that in the past year, the Division hosted
regulators from Connecticut and New York wanting to learn about Florida’s
investigative and enforcement operations. CFO Sink said while enforcement
is a top priority, the Division is expanding its education and outreach
activities in an effort to prevent compliance problems.
The Division’s Bureau of Compliance now has certified
instructors who, beginning in October, will present approximately 40
continuing education programs a year throughout Florida, focusing on
compliance and coverage issues important to contractors and employers.
Are you the chief
financial officer of your family? Are you always
looking out for the best deals, wise investments and
smart moves for your family's financial security?
As your family's fiscal
watch dog, keep an eye on
this column for money-smart ideas from the Chief
Financial Officer of Florida,
WARRANTIES -- ARE THEY NEEDED?
Common sense might tell you to turn down the offer of an
extended warranty but does it make you uneasy to say no? A
multi-billion-dollar industry has been built on your saying
yes. Many people
pay from 10 to 50 percent of a product’s purchase price to
extend the warranty. Most consumer groups and many economic
experts recommend against the purchase, saying that the
plans rarely benefit consumers.
Technically insurance products, extended warranties' premiums
are paid in a
lump sum at the time of purchase, and the contract lengthens
the warranty coverage or offers repair services, typically
adding from one to three years of protection.
Many policies won’t cover accidents or wear and tear, but
most telling is the fact that most extended warranties are
never used by the purchasers. Warranty Week, an
industry publication, estimated that about 20 percent of
premiums paid for warranties are paid out in claims, a
relatively low payout for an insurance product.
Consumer Reports seldom recommends buying an extended
warranty, especially on automobiles. But Consumer Reports
makes an exception to the rule on some products - laptop PCs
and expensive TV sets - where the need for repairs has
happened often enough and cost so much that an extended
warranty could make sense. But, most often, an extended
warranty is not recommended.
As an alternative,
you may consider depositing the annual
cost of a service contract in a savings account and holding
it as a fund to be used for repairs, if needed.
Consumer Services Helpline