Volume 5 Number 39 September
CONSUMER SERVICES HELPLINE
Washington Mutual (WaMu), one of Florida’s 10 largest banks,
was taken over by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation
(FDIC) Thursday night. All of WaMu’s branches, deposits and
assets were immediately sold to JPMorgan Chase, providing
customers full access to their accounts and the ability to
continue banking as usual.
It is important for Floridians banking with WaMu to
understand that due to the quick sale to JPMorgan Chase,
bank branches will be open and business will continue as
normal. WaMu customers with questions can visit their local
branch, call the customer service division at
1-800-788-7000, or call the FDIC Call Center at
1-877-275-3342 for more information.
WaMu customers should hear from JPMorgan Chase soon, as
happens under normal circumstances when one bank buys
another. All deposit accounts, including savings, checking,
money market, and retirement accounts and certificates of
deposit, have become part of JPMorgan Chase Bank, although
the signs may not change for awhile.
Direct deposits such as payroll or Social Security checks
will continue as normal, as will use of your debit card.
WaMu customers can still use the checks you have now, and
checks already written will be honored provided that you
have sufficient funds in the account. Loan payment amounts
and due dates will not change, automatic payments will
continue as usual and online banking remains available.
CFO SINK RELEASES RESULTS OF EXTERNAL
AUDIT OF ACCOUNTING AND AUDITING
CFO immediately orders corrective action to increase
safeguards; CFO-ordered audit is first of its kind for
Accounting and Auditing Department in ten years
Continuing her systematic performance evaluation of the
divisions within Florida’s Department of Financial Services
(DFS), Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink released
the results of a performance audit of electronic funds
transfer (EFT) processes within the Division of Accounting
and Auditing. CFO Sink called for the external audit last
month after her department worked with the Federal Bureau of
Investigation to successfully apprehend a suspect accused of
No performance audits of Accounting and Auditing’s EFT
process had been performed in ten years. The EFT process was
last audited by the department’s Inspector General in 1998
when DFS was then the Department of Banking and Finance.
“As a career banker with a lifetime in risk management, I
understand that audits and assessments over internal
controls are essential to keeping business processes running
efficiently and securely,” said CFO Sink, who oversees DFS.
“This external audit provides a blueprint for demanding and
instituting increased safeguards over the electronic
transfer of funds, and we are acting immediately to
implement the audit’s recommendations.”
CFO SINK HAILS $541
MILLION HOUSING ASSISTANCE FROM FEDERAL GOVERNMENT
Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex
Sink today hailed the award of $541 million in housing aid
to Florida’s local governments by the United States
Department of Housing and Urban Development. Florida has
one of the highest foreclosure rates in the nation and the
highest rate of mortgage fraud.
The funds, appropriated by Congress as
part of the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008, will
be used to help local governments renovate abandoned and
foreclosed properties to make them available for resale. In
turn, local governments will make these properties available
to moderate and low-income Floridians.
“I am delighted to see that Floridians
will reap hundreds of millions of dollars worth of benefits
from the new law,” said CFO Sink, who oversees the
Department of Financial Services. “These resources will
help thousands of Floridians who don’t currently own a home
have the chance to become homeowners. It will also help
local governments meet the pressing need for housing for
many of our hard-working families, including law enforcement
officers, teachers and nurses.”
After Congress’ passage of the Housing
and Economic Recovery Act of 2008, CFO Sink created a
Financial Action Team to review the federal law and to
conduct an outreach campaign. The Financial Action Team is
targeting new homebuyers, veterans, homeowners who are
having trouble meeting their mortgage payments, and local
CFO SINK’S 'FINANCIAL
ACTION TEAM' MET ON
WEDNESDAY IN TALLAHASSEE
Sink called upon the broad coalition
last month to review federal foreclosure assistance legislation
Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink's
“Financial Action Team” met Wednesday, September 24, 2008,
in Tallahassee. The Financial Action Team is reviewing Florida’s
potential share of the billions in federal dollars available from the
recently-passed federal Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008.
During the workgroup meeting, members discussed how to use their
individual and collective means to inform Floridians about the benefits
of the new federal law, and also discussed the impact on the law of the
new White House proposal to rescue financial institutions that are still
troubled by the housing crisis.
The FACT Team focused on a number of key provisions of the law,
including the HOPE for Homeowners Act, which will provide federal
guarantees for up to $300 billion in troubled mortgages, the $7,500
homebuyer tax credit, which is available to Floridians who have not
owned a home in the past three years but have purchased a home this
year, extensive benefits available to veterans, and the nearly $4
billion in aid to local governments which is to be used to refurbish
foreclosed properties to be made available for resale – particularly for
moderate and low-income homeowners.
The FACT Team will conduct outreach efforts using the Department of
Financial Services Web site, member newsletters and magazines, E-mail
lists, and The Chief Financial Officer’s toll-free help line, which is
877-My-FL-CFO (877-693-5236). The CFO expects to have these resources
available to Floridians over the next few weeks.
The FACT Team will stay together to work with CFO Sink on other
financial issues facing Floridians.
CFO SINK PROMOTES WORKPLACE SAFETY WITH
FREE WORKERS’ COMPENSATION CLASSES
Free workers’ compensation classes to help business
owners, employers and contractors create a safe working
Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink, who oversees the
Department of Financial Services and the Division of
Workers’ Compensation, announced today that the department
will begin offering free classes to help employers and
contractors better protect their most valuable assets –
“Floridians work hard and we want them to go home whole and
healthy everyday, so we will enforce workers’ compensation
laws to protect them,” said CFO Sink. “Our goal is to make
it easy for employers to comply with the law so that
employees can work in safe environments.”
Classes will begin October 1, 2008, and will be led by 15
compliance investigators and supervisors who are licensed to
provide instruction in Florida’s coverage and compliance
requirements. The classes will provide information on what
is required under Florida’s workers’ compensation law, when
exemptions apply, what resources are available to help
employers and contractors comply with the law, and training
on workplace safety. Contractors who successfully complete
the classes will be eligible for continuing education
credits. For an initial class schedule and to register,
www.myfloridacfo.com/wc and look under “Notices.”
MY SAFE FLORIDA HOME ADVISORY COUNCIL MET
ON THURSDAY IN TALLAHASSEE
Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink convened the
legislatively-created My Safe Florida Home (MSFH) Advisory
Council on Thursday, September 25, 2008, in Tallahassee at
The Council received an update on the program, which has
provided more than 400,000 free wind inspections and awarded
nearly 39,000 Floridians grants to harden their homes
against hurricane damage. Members also reviewed Florida’s
home structure rating system and new research initiatives
At its meeting, the
Council unanimously agreed to pursue additional funding
during the next legislative session to continue building on
the momentum of the program. In addition, the Council
recommended a subcommittee be established to provide
recommendations for including mitigation improvements to
roofs, such as roof covering, roof-to-wall connections, roof
deck attachment and secondary water barrier, as
grant-eligible in a future version of the program.
Authorized by Section 215.5586, Florida Statutes, the
council was created to provide advice and assistance to the
Department of Financial Services regarding the
administration of the MSFH program.
For more information on the MSFH program or the council
www.MySafeFloridaHome.com or call the program’s
toll-free at 1-866-513-6734. On the Web site, Floridians
can link to information on the council, its agenda and
Energy tips for Florida families - these actions
represent ways to behave kindly toward Mother Earth,
AND save money as well as energy.
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.
Energy-saving laundry tips
Major appliances account for
about 20% of your household's energy consumption with
refrigerators, clothes washers, and clothes dryers at the
top of the consumption list. Try these energy-saving ideas
to save money each month.
Wash clothes in cold water. Heating the water, not
swishing and spinning the clothes, uses most of the energy spent
to wash clothes. Save substantially by washing and rinsing
at cooler or cold temperatures. Wash most clothes in warm or
cold water, using cold-water detergents whenever possible;
rinse in cold. You'll save energy and money. Use hot water
only if absolutely necessary. Switching the washer
temperature setting from hot to warm could reduce a load's
energy in half. Most natural, organic fabrics don’t need warm water attention because they're inherently
antibacterial and antimicrobial—meaning that they
naturally discourage mold, mildew, and allergens.
Don't use too much detergent. Follow the instructions on
the box. Over-sudsing makes your machine work harder and use
Hang it up to dry. When it's sunny, a
clothesline is the most eco-friendly way to dry your
clothes—with no static! You save the energy a dryer
would use, and your clothes will smell outdoor fresh without
the perfumes and chemicals in fabric softeners and dryer
sheets. Hang light items inside on a hanger or indoor
clothesline to save energy, too. You'll get longer life out of
clothes hung up to dry - dryer lint is clothes leaving
pieces behind. And keep that dryer lint-trap clean.
Reduce Drying Time
If you can't air-dry your laundry, save on drying time by
drying similar fabrics together, drying multiple loads in
quick succession (to take advantage of residual heat), and
make sure to clean the dryer filter after each use.
Don't overdry your laundry. Clothes will need less
ironing and hold up better if you remove them from the dryer
while they're still a little damp. When shopping for a new
clothes dryer, find one with a moisture sensor rather just a
thermostat - it will know when your clothes are
My Family CFO
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
watchdog, keep an eye on
this column for money-smart ideas from the Chief
Financial Officer of Florida,
against identity theft
Know your wallet. Carry only the credit cards you
need so that access is limited to your accounts if cards are
lost or stolen. Photocopy your cards and keep a record of
customer service phone numbers.
Shred. Open all mail and read it carefully— shred any
items with personal information before discarding.
Be suspicious. Never give out personal information
until you have verified that you can trust the source --
over the phone, in-store or online.
Monitor. Check your bank, credit card and other
financial account information to reduce the risk of
unauthorized charges or credit applications. If you find a
suspicious charge, contact your financial institution.
Take action. If you notice a new account has been
opened without your permission, contact one of the three
major credit bureaus and have a fraud alert placed on your
record. The other two bureaus will be notified, and
creditors will be required to contact you directly before
opening new accounts or making changes to existing accounts.
Then file a police report and submit a complaint to the
Federal Trade Commission.
Use the Web safely. Be sure to use a secured network,
and frequently update firewall protections on your computer.
Also limit the amount of personal information you post on
networking Web sites.
STATE FIRE MARSHAL'S OFFICE PARTICIPATES IN THIRD ANNUAL
NORTHWEST FLORIDA VOLUNTEER FIREFIGHTER WEEKEND
The Florida State Fire College, a division of the State Fire
Marshal's office, sponsored and participated in the third
annual Northwest Florida Volunteer Firefighter Weekend on
September 19-14, 2008. The event was held for the first time
at the Northwest Florida State College (formerly
Okaloosa-Walton College). Nearly 200 students from Pensacola
to the Keys took part in the educational experience.
Les Hallman, left, division director of the State Fire
Marshal’s Office, spoke about safety and the importance of
training. “This is what it is all about, good training
in a safe atmosphere. The State Fire Marshal and the Florida
State Fire College are proud and pleased to be part of this
STILL TIME TO FILE FOR YOUR
ECONOMIC STIMULUS PAYMENT
those residents who still intend to receive an economic
stimulus payment, the Oct. 15 deadline to file a 2007 income
tax return is fast approaching.
And according to the Internal Revenue Service, there were
potential filers in Florida in
mid-September who had not submitted a tax return to get the
Nationally, the IRS is alerting the estimated 4.3 million
retirees and disabled veterans who may be eligible to
receive a stimulus payment, but who normally don't file a
tax return. It's also the deadline for the approximately 10
million people who earlier this year received extensions to
file their 2007 income tax return.
TAX CREDIT TO AID FIRST-TIME HOMEBUYERS
Must Be Repaid Over 15 Years
WASHINGTON — First-time homebuyers should begin planning now
to take advantage of a new tax credit included in the
recently enacted Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008,
Available for a limited time only, the credit:
- Applies to home purchases after April
8, 2008, and before July 1, 2009.
- Reduces a taxpayer’s tax bill or
increases his or her refund, dollar for dollar.
- Is fully refundable, meaning that the
credit will be paid out to eligible taxpayers, even if
they owe no tax or the credit is more than the tax that
However, the credit operates much like an
interest-free loan, because it must be repaid over a 15-year
period. So, for example, an eligible taxpayer who buys a
home today and properly claims the maximum available credit
of $7,500 on his or her 2008 federal income tax return must
begin repaying the credit by including one-fifteenth of this
amount, or $500, as an additional tax on his or her 2010