Volume 6 Number 23 June 5, 2009

Dear Floridian:

As a mother of two, I understand first-hand that the most important investments we make are those in our children. Certain measures, like quality education and affordable healthcare, are imperative to making sure our future generations can succeed.

On Tuesday, I was pleased to join Governor Crist as he signed legislation to simplify Florida’s KidCare program, making health care more accessible to Florida’s children. I chaired the Healthy Kids Board during my first 20 months in office, and I applaud this very important reform that will remove unnecessary barriers, making it easier for families to enroll and keep their children insured.

Also this week, I was proud to join many of our Department of Financial Services employees who were recognized for their exceptional work at the 2009 Prudential – Davis Productivity Awards kickoff reception. Congratulations to all of them!

Sincerely,

Alex




Alex Sink
Chief Financial Officer
State of Florida


Florida KidCareCFO Sink applauds signing of KidCare reforms

Florida CFO Alex Sink on Tuesday commended Governor Charlie Crist for signing legislation to simplify and streamline Florida’s KidCare program (SB 918/HB 1329), making health care more accessible for Florida’s children. CFO Sink attended the Governor’s ceremonial bill signing and spoke about the need to insure as many Florida kids as possible.

View a video of CFO Sink’s remarks: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zN_e3c0xCDI.

CFO Sink at KidCare bill signing“In these tough times, we should make it as easy as possible for Florida’s families to get their children the heath care they need,” said CFO Sink.  “I commend the Florida Legislature and the Governor for finally removing the unnecessary barriers that made it difficult for Florida’s kids to be enrolled and stay enrolled in Healthy Kids.”

CFO Sink, who chaired the Healthy Kids Board during her first 20 months in office, supported the legislation sponsored by Senator Nan Rich and Representative Jimmy Patronis, and has pushed for these reforms for three legislative sessions. This new law will remove administrative barriers to the program and make changes to expedite enrollment with no additional funding required, expanding program eligibility to 50,000 children according to Governor Crist.

“These reforms will not only remove unnecessary barriers that are making it harder for Florida’s children to have health care, they allow Florida to get Governor Crist signs KidCare billmore of our fair share of federal funding available for children’s health insurance programs,” CFO Sink continued.  “All of Florida’s children deserve health care, and these important reforms take our state one step further in that effort.”

The Florida Healthy Kids program is a public-private partnership that allows Florida’s families to purchase health insurance for their children.  Florida Healthy Kids is one of four components of the larger Florida KidCare program.  Florida Healthy Kids coverage includes regular doctor visits, dental check-ups and immunizations.  For more information about enrollment in Florida KidCare, visit www.floridakidcare.org to apply on-line or call 1-888-540-5437 to receive an application by mail.


DAvis Productivity AwardsCFO Sink congratulates Productivity Award recipients

Florida CFO Alex Sink offered her congratulations to the dozens of Department of Financial Services employees who were recognized with a 2009 Prudential – Davis Productivity Award. These employees were recognized at a kickoff reception on Thursday in Tallahassee. The Prudential – Davis Productivity Awards are presented annually to state employees who exceed performance expectations in ways that improve state functions and save money for Florida taxpayers.

“Our Department’s winners have shown a dedication to the people of Florida by going above and beyond to ensure the most efficient and productive use of taxpayer dollars,” said CFO Sink. “I am very proud to congratulate all of the Department of Financial Services recipients on their Davis Productivity Awards and I thank them for their innovations and achievements.”Productivity Awards honored at Cabinet

Above: CFO Sink commends the Davis Productivity Awards program at the Cabinet meeting on May 27 for the excellent work done in empowering state employees to be entrepreneurial in improving the efficiency of government.

Department of Financial Services employees received 39 recognitions this year, including 5 cash awards, 16 plaque awards, and 16 certificates of commendation. Many different areas of work done by the Department of Financial Services were recognized, such as efforts to protect seniors from financial fraud, insurance fraud investigations and unclaimed property notification efforts.

“To increase our Department’s savings, I have asked our Division Directors to review Florida TaxWatch’s report of the top 20 ‘Most Adaptable Achievements’ from the Davis Productivity Awards and see what we can implement,” CFO Sink continued.

The 2009 awards competition attracted 568 nominations for innovations and productivity improvements worth $342 million in cost savings, cost avoidances and increased revenue for state government. Over the past 19 years, award winners have posted a total of $6.3 billion in added value for Florida taxpayers and businesses. Last week, CFO Sink also sponsored a Cabinet resolution recognizing the achievement of all Prudential – Davis Award recipients.

“Congratulations to CFO Alex Sink, and the staff of the Department of Financial Services on having so many award winners this year,” said Clarissa Dunlap, Executive Director of the Prudential – Davis Productivity Award program administered by Florida TaxWatch. “CFO Sink continues to be a dedicated partner to the program and every year her office’s numerous awards reflect her commitment to saving taxpayer dollars.”

The Prudential – Davis Productivity Awards program is a major government improvement initiative co-sponsored by Florida TaxWatch, The Florida Council of 100, and the State of Florida. For more information about the Davis Productivity Awards, visit the Florida TaxWatch Web site: http://www.floridataxwatch.org/dpa/index.php.


At State EOC, CFO Sink is briefed on mock hurricane exercise

On Tuesday, CFO Sink visited the State Emergency Operation Center (SEOC) during the annual Hurricane Tabletop Exercise, which this year simulated a Category 4 hurricane impacting the Miami, Ft. Myers and Pensacola areas. CFO Sink received a detailed briefing on the exercise and level of the state’s preparedness, led by Deputy State Coordinating Officer Dave Halstead.

Hurricane drill at the Emergency Operations Center

During the briefing, CFO Sink commended the work of DFS employees and all of the emergency responders who participated in the exercise, working together to asses the simulated issues and finding solutions in a timely manner. She also noted how important it was to make sure the state is prepared in the case of a real emergency.

After the briefing CFO Sink had the opportunity to meet with various DFS employees working within the EOC, in particularly ESF 4 and 9 – Firefighting and Search & Rescue where DFS houses its law enforcement staff from the State Fire Marshal and Insurance Fraud Divisions, led by Deputy CFO Brian London.


Tampa Cub Scouts visit CFO SinkTampa's Cub Scout Pack 47 visits CFO Sink

Eleven eager Cub Scouts gathered round the CFO on Friday during their visit from Tampa to tour the Capitol with Cubmaster Jeffrey Huggins and accompanying parents and siblings.

The Lowry Park Zoo Pack boys (www.zoopack47.com)have all earned the "Citizenship Academic Belt Loop" and most have earned the "Cub Scout World Conservation Badge" for taking part in conservation projects like cleaning up the beach along Tampa Bay and planting projects at the zoo. They will be earning the "Citizen Academic Pin" for this trip to the Capitol.


Division of Insurance Fraud badgeDFS detective, multi-agency effort recovers millions for fraud victims

Florida CFO Alex Sink on Tuesday announced that due to the tireless efforts of her Department’s Division of Insurance Fraud (DIF) and a multi-agency effort, 27 victims of a nationwide workers’ compensation fraud will be provided with millions of dollars of restitution money.

These payments were announced at a press conference held in Jacksonville with representatives from the Department of Financial Services, United States Attorney’s Office, and the FBI Jacksonville Office. The restitutions are coming two years after the indictment of the five criminals who scammed hundreds of victims in a $100 million workers’ compensation fraud.

“Two years ago we worked hard to bring these scammers who hurt so many Floridians to justice, but our work was not done. I am very pleased to announce that today the injured employees that ended up having to sell their cars, homes and possessions to pay their medical bills, will now see some of their money returned,” said CFO Sink.  “I commend the work of our dedicated Division of Insurance Fraud investigators, especially Detective Clark, and all the agencies who came together to catch these criminals and return millions of dollars back to the individuals hurt by this fraud.”

In April 2007, CFO Sink joined with the US Attorney and FBI to announce a 25-count indictment charging the five suspects in the $100 million workers’ compensation fraud scam. The investigation began within the Division of Insurance Fraud after lead detective Tommy Clark received a referral on a business functioning without workers’ compensation. Once detective Clark realized the magnitude of the case and the fact that it was bleeding over into other states, the FBI and US Attorney’s Office began assisting with the investigation.

“This was a significant impact case; major injuries were sustained and in some instances employees died from work related injuries,” stated Division of Insurance Fraud Detective Tommy Clark. “It gives me great satisfaction to see some of the victims receiving checks today, varying from $50 thousand to $350 thousand. Today’s event is what makes my job worthwhile.”

Workers’ Compensation Insurance Fraud is a second degree felony in Florida. DIF made over 800 insurance fraud-related arrests in the last fiscal year and depending on the estimated loss amount, DIF will pay up to $25,000 for information directly leading to an arrest and conviction.  Anyone with information about any 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.


Hurricane Season - Are you prepared?Hurricane Checklist: Make sure your valuables are covered

This week’s Hurricane Checklist reminder is to make sure your valuables such as jewelry, watches, furs, guns, silverware, coin and stamp collections, computers, musical instruments, etc. are sufficiently covered under your homeowner’s policy.

These items are covered under your personal property coverage. However, most policies have a pre-set limit they will pay for these items. You can purchase higher limits by contacting your insurance agent.

For some of the higher value items, your insurance company may require an appraisal or a receipt from the original purchase. Since insurance policies can vary from company to company, the limits placed on these items could vary as well. You can find a list of the personal property and the coverage limit in your policy.

Find out when a Hurricane Preparedness Event will be in your area on our calendar linked here. Check back with us next week for more ideas.


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 watch dog, keep an eye on this column for money-smart ideas from the Chief Financial Officer of Florida, Alex Sink.

If you have a creative way to be fiscally smart, share it with us for this column!

MyFamilyCFO@MyFloridaCFO.com

Idea: You can find money to save

Even when it is difficult to make ends meet, you can still find money to save.

Keep track of every penny you spend for a week. You may be surprised where you are spending your hard-earned money and how easy it is to do without some expenditures, once the incentive to save has been sparked.

Use cash to make purchases. This can help you stick to a budget and avoid impulse purchases. Simply decide ahead of time how much you want to spend and then set aside that amount in cash before you go shopping.

Lower your credit card payments. Ask creditors about a lower interest rate. Many will give borrowers a lower rate when asked.

Lower your monthly bills. Conserve utilities, decrease your cable TV extras, do it yourself around the house and cut your own grass.

Rank your nonessential expenses. Keep the ones you like the best and cut out the rest.

Bring your lunch to work and cook dinner at home. Restaurants can eat up a lot of potential savings. Make your own coffee. A "grande" serving at the fancy coffee store is an extravagance to save for a special occasion.

Bottled water is a convenience but not so good for the environment and landfill or your savings plan.

Saving a few dollars a day can help you fund a secure financial future. Make it a habit to put your saved money in a rainy day account, investment account or savings account each month.


Saving energy, saving moneyEnergy tips for Florida families - these actions represent ways to behave kindly toward Mother Earth, AND save money as well as energy. These tips are presented by 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 rainforests of the world.

Take out your broom or rake

One of those necessary evils of homeownership is cleaning outdoor decks and porches. No one likes to do the inevitable chore, which become especially tedious in the fall when many of the trees drop most of their leaves.

While many of us have become accustomed to either hauling out our electric leaf blowers or pulling out the hoses to hose all the debris away, this week’s tip encourages an old fashioned solution. To become more earth friendly, instead of using our precious water to hose down the leaves or using electricity to blow away the material, take out your broom or rake and sweep your way to a clean deck or porch.

Remember that if you use your own power to clean up your outdoor areas, you avoid the noise pollution associated with electric blowers or the wasted water from hoses. In addition, leaf blowers, because they can blow air at 180 mph, don’t just neatly move leaves and debris from one spot to another. They can send dirt flying into the air, landing in places you just cleaned. So be a good steward, be good to yourself and have a “blast” with sweeping your way to beautiful decks and porches.