FLORIDA CFO ALEX SINK'S CONSUMER EVIEWS NEWSLETTER

Volume 7 Number 20 May 14, 2010

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Dear Floridian:

Our tourism industry is the very lifeline of our economy – worth $65 billion annually – which is why last Saturday, I met with BP officials and asked that they fund a global advertising campaign to make sure possible visitors to Florida know the state’s beaches are beautiful, oil-free and open for business.

As we continue to monitor activity in the Gulf and proactively plan for recovery efforts -- and as oil remains away from our shores -- it’s so important that our coastal businesses have the help they need.

Also at this week's Cabinet meeting, I continued my call for a constitutional amendment banning oil drilling near our beaches. Floridians deserve a chance to speak out about protecting our beaches and our economy.

Sincerely,

Alex Sink
CFO
State of Florida


CFO Sink Urges Floridians to Celebrate Armed Forces Day

As our nation prepares to celebrate Armed Forces Day 2010 on May, 15, 2010, Florida CFO Alex Sink issued the following statement on Friday to commend and honor the men and women serving in the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, Coast Guard and the National Guard and Reserve around the world:

“Most of us spend our weekends with our families – at the beaches, in our backyards, or maybe in parks watching our children play,” said CFO Sink. “This weekend, let’s be especially mindful of the brave men and women who are away from their families protecting us so we can safely spend time with ours. We owe each of them a tremendous debt of gratitude, those who serve now and those who have served in the past, and especially the families of those soldiers who gave their lives to protect ours.”

Armed Forces Day is celebrated annually on the third Saturday in May. On Thursday CFO and State Marshal Alex Sink participated in the Florida Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve ceremony in Tampa, signing a statement supporting the men and women of the National Guard & Reserve.


CFO Sink Asks BP to Fund Worldwide Advertising Campaign to Advise That Florida Beaches And Businesses Are Open

Florida CFO Alex Sink asked the president of BP America today to fund a worldwide campaign to advise potential visitors to Florida that the state’s beaches and businesses are oil-free and open for business.

“Responding to this disaster will be a marathon, not a sprint, and these important first steps that BP must take will demonstrate your commitment to respond to the effects this spill is having on our state’s citizens and our economy,” CFO Sink wrote.

Read the letter to Lamar McKay of BP America.


Florida CFO and State Fire Marshal Alex Sink on Thursday recognized the importance of the Florida National Guard & Reserve in one of seven statewide “signing of support” ceremonies coordinated by the Florida Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR) as part of Florida ESGR Day. CFO Sink was joined by representatives from her State Fire Marshal and Insurance Fraud law enforcement divisions, members of the Florida State Law Enforcement Chiefs Association and Colonel Cecil Laudano of the U.S. Air Force.

“We must never lose sight of the support needed for our Guard and Reservists,” said CFO Sink. “I am thankful for the Florida Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve for bringing us together today to remind our employers and our communities just how important our support is of these very brave and dedicated Floridians.”

The National Guard and Reserve represents over half of the U.S. military. More than 38,000 Florida men and women serve our state and our nation through the National Guard and Reserve.

On Tuesday, the Florida Cabinet presented the Florida Committee for Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve with a cabinet resolution recognizing their importance in assisting the Guard and Reserve, their families and employers.


Take the Deepwater Horizon Business Impact Survey

Florida emergency management and economic development staff are gathering information from businesses impacted by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Please take a moment to complete the survey and provide crucial information that will help shape Florida's response to this event. The survey will be updated periodically, so please check back, as your specific situation and information may change with time. Thank you!

Click here to take the Deepwater Horizon Business Impact Survey.


Florida Native Plant Society Honored by the Cabinet with a Resolution

Florida enjoys an incredible and distinctive diversity of native plants with more than 3,000 native species. To honor the valuable work done to protect our native plants, CFO Sink sponsored a resolution by the Governor and Cabinet.

The Florida Native Plant Society promotes the preservation, conservation and restoration of native plants and native plant communities of Florida. The society is celebrating its thirtieth anniversary and over the past three decades has seen its membership grow from 28 to more than 3,000 members.

Out of the 3,000 native species, 550 have been designated by the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services as endangered, threatened or commercially exploited. On May 21, 2010 the Fish and Wildlife Service will observe Endangered Species Day in order to recognize the national conservation effort to protect our nation’s endangered species and their habitats.

The Florida Native Plant Society's annual conference will take place in Tallahassee on May 20-23, 2010, to recognize the valuable role and important contributions of the Florida Native Plant Society. To find a chapter in your area, visit the Florida Native Plant Society website.


CFO Sink Asks BP to Clarify Claims Process

Florida CFO Alex Sink asked BP America to clarify the process Florida consumers should follow to file a claim related to the oil spill. Following a weekend meeting, CFO Sink sent a letter today reiterating that she continues to hear from Floridians concerned by long on-hold times when calling the BP phone line for filing claims, and who are confused about what is required to file a claim. CFO Sink’s Department of Financial Services’ Consumer Helpline provides consumers and businesses with assistance in insurance and will use the information to more effectively assist Floridians impacted by business disruption from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

“As we both know, it is imperative that we work together to keep Florida’s business owners informed of all the options available to protect their livelihoods,” CFO Sink wrote.

On Thursday, it was announced that BP opened a claims office in Pensacola at 435 East Government Street. The local phone number is (850) 858-0817 and the office is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., and on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Next week, BP is opening eight to 10 claims offices in the Panhandle. The locations of these new offices will be posted on CFO Sink's Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Resources webpage as soon as the information is available.

Read the letter to Keith Seilhan of BP America.


CFO Sink Praises Oil Spill Federal Aid Proposal

Florida CFO Alex Sink praised the proposal from President Obama this week to provide federal aid to Gulf Coast communities and Florida workers impacted by the oil spill:

“While BP is responsible for paying for all damages incurred by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, it is so important that our coastal communities and employers have immediate access to assistance so they can keep their businesses afloat, and I applaud President Obama for addressing their urgent needs,” said CFO Sink. “I will continue to work with state and federal officials to protect Florida’s businesses and citizens, and to hold BP accountable for the economic damage this spill is having on Florida’s economy.”

Since news first hit of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, CFO Sink has been actively addressing this very real threat to Florida’s economy and environment. Sink has taken aerial tours of the spill and contacted state and federal officials, proposing help for Florida’s small businesses and coastal communities. She has also urged BP to provide better coordination and response on behalf of businesses that may need to file claims, and has discussed her ideas to mitigate economic damages to the state with BP’s lead executive assigned to Florida.


CFO Sink Commends Governor Crist for Acting on Her Request to Seek Loan Assistance for Florida Small Businesses

Florida CFO Alex Sink commended Governor Charlie Crist for acting on her request to seek an official Economic Injury Disaster Declaration from the U.S. Small Business Administration to make low-interest loans available to businesses in 19 Florida coastal counties already experiencing economic disruption from the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill.

CFO Sink sent a letter to Governor Crist requesting the action, noting that only a governor can certify to the SBA that there are qualifying businesses in a disaster area.

“Florida must act swiftly to take advantage of every possible opportunity available to help our small businesses to survive the effects of this disaster,” CFO Sink said. “I am pleased Governor Crist took this very critical step, and will continue to do whatever I can to look out for our businesses and make sure they get the help they need.”

Above: A Panhandle fisherman, left, tells the Governor and Cabinet about the current conditions of his business. Right, DEP Secretary Mike Sole.


Saving Energy, Saving Money: Wildlife Rehabilitation and Volunteer Information

In Florida, the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has been designated the lead state agency for responding to potential impacts of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill along Florida's shoreline.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), working with DEP, county governments, water management districts and several federal agencies is conducting pre-impact wildlife assessments, which include taking water samples and testing for contamination in sediments, fish and shellfish along Florida's coastline and into the Gulf of Mexico. The FWC also is evaluating critical habitat, shorebird and sea turtle nesting areas and other wildlife. These assessments will assist wildlife managers to determine potential impacts.

Shorebirds

Shorebirds and seabirds are particularly vulnerable to disturbance during nesting season. Here are some guidelines to follow for any beach cleanup during nesting season.

Sea Turtles

Sea turtles nest at night on the Gulf coast of Florida from May through August. Hatching of sea turtle nests also occurs at night from July through October. Here are some guidelines to follow for any beach cleanup during nesting and hatchling season.

Wildlife Rehabilitation and Volunteer Information

The FWC appreciates the interest expressed by many in volunteering for wildlife rehabilitation. Tri-State Bird Rescue and Research and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are overseeing the wildlife-rehabilitation response along the Gulf coast. The FWC is receiving many questions about how people can help wildlife that may become oiled.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with Tri-State Bird Rescue & Research, who is contracted by BP, to provide wildlife assistance for species that may be affected by the oil spill. The Service recognizes Tri-State's expertise in wildlife oil spill response and, while many wildlife organizations and individuals have expressed interest in providing their assistance, all rehabilitation efforts must be coordinated through the USFWS and Tri-State. Coordination is vitally important for recovery and research efforts, and specific safety requirements and other requirements must be met before anyone will be allowed on-site for any participation.


“Shameless” Scammer Arrest Announced by CFO Sink

Florida CFO and State Fire Marshal Alex Sink announced the arrest of a Tallahassee man on charges of arson, insurance fraud and grand theft after her State Fire Marshal (SFM) and Insurance Fraud (DIF) investigators determined the suspect intentionally set fire to his yacht, a 50-foot SeaRay named “Shameless,” and then filed a false insurance claim for the purpose of collecting insurance benefits.

Arthur Freeman, 50, was arrested on Wednesday and booked into the Leon County jail. If convicted, he faces up to 65 years behind bars.

“Arson is a serious crime that puts the lives of innocent people and rescue personnel at risk, and we all pay for insurance fraud in the form of higher premiums. I hope this arrest sends a clear message to all ‘shameless’ criminals that their actions will not be tolerated,” said CFO Sink. “I commend the detectives in my law enforcement divisions who diligently worked this case.”

The arson was discovered when an evidence analysis established the presence of gasoline on the SeaRay, which runs on diesel fuel. The case has been turned over to the Fourteenth Judicial Circuit State Attorney’s Office for prosecution.


ICA Sean Shaw’s Insurance Advice for Newlyweds Part II—Protecting Your Joint Assets

As many couples seek to unify their lives this summer, some will forget that the joys of marriage often bring unforeseen issues regarding post-nuptial insurance needs. The Office of the Insurance Consumer Advocate would like to offer consumers advice that addresses insurance coverage issues for newlyweds. The Office has prepared a three-part series which discusses the various insurance issues honeymooners should consider.

In the first part of this series life and health insurance issues were discussed. In the second installment of this series, insurance issues relating to personal assets will be discussed. Marriage means not only increasing the size of your family, but also increasing the amount of possessions in your home. As consumers join all aspects of their lives in marriage, the following are some issues that should be considered.

Renters or Homeowners Insurance

Renters or homeowners insurance provides consumers with protection for their belongings or their home. Once newlyweds have determined where they will reside, they should meet with a qualified property and casualty insurance agent to assist in obtaining coverage. A couple who has decided to own their home should consider flood insurance, especially if the home is near a body of water. After marriage many couples may have doubled their possessions. As a result, they should update their homeowner’s insurance by taking an inventory of all assets and storing this information in a safe place. Newlyweds should research the coverage needed and select a company and agent together. Couples who would like to understand many of the property insurance issues they will face can review the consumer guide provided by the Division of Consumer Services in the Department of Financial Services at: http://www.myfloridacfo.com/Consumers/Guides/Property/docs/InsuringYourHomeEnglish.pdf

Automobile Insurance

Automobile insurance is required by Florida law and serves to protect individuals in the event of automobile loss. Because spouses often drive each other's cars, couples should be sure to add each other to their respective policies in order to avoid any coverage issues in the event of an accident. Families who have driving-age children should also ensure that the children are identified on their policies. As some companies give a multi-policy discount to consumers who have multiple lines with a single carrier (e.g. auto, home, life, etc.), couples should evaluate the benefits of consolidating their insurance coverage. Couples who have questions regarding auto insurance should consult the Department of Consumer Services in the Department of Financial Services, which has a brochure on automobile coverage that will help answer many questions. It can be reviewed at: http://www.myfloridacfo.com/Consumers/Guides/Auto/docs/autoGuide2008.pdf.

The Insurance Consumer Advocate is appointed by Florida CFO Alex Sink and is committed to finding solutions to insurance issues facing Floridians, calling attention to questionable insurance practices, promoting a viable insurance market responsive to the needs of Florida’s diverse population and assuring that rates are fair and justified.


Consumer Corner: Interested in Learning More about the Federal Health Care Plan?

CFO Sink is encouraging Floridians to get the facts about President Obama’s health care reform plan.

The Division of Consumer Services has compiled information in our Insurance Library about federal health care reform to keep Floridians educated about the new laws and rules. From the Insurance Library home page, choose "H" and then Health Care - Federal Reform. As more information becomes available, the Insurance Library will be updated.


Foreclosure Help from Florida Housing Help

Florida Housing Help, a community outreach program, is designed to educate and assist families facing foreclosure. Workshops listed below will include opportunities to meet with mortgage lenders and HUD-certified counselors.

For more information on housing help visit http://www.myfloridacfo.com/FloridaHousingHelp.

Monday, May 17, 2010, TThe University Area Community Development Center, 14013 North 22nd Street, Tampa 33613 5:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010 Joseph P D’Alessandro Office Complex, 2295 Victoria Ave., Fort Myers, FL 33901 5:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m.

Saturday, May 22, 2010 Central Florida Community College – Ewers Century Center, 300 SW College Road, Ocala, FL 34474 10:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010 East Hill Baptist Church – 912 Miccosukee Road, Tallahassee 5:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m.

For more workshops that include community partners and resources and offer great information for citizens, visit http://www.myfloridacfo.com/Consumers/OutReach/EventsbyCategory.asp.


My Family CFO: Save on Your Vacation - Florida Beaches Are Open

Try vacationing locally to save money this year and to support Florida's economy. Beautiful beaches stretch around Florida’s coastline, from the sugar sands of the Panhandle to the shell-laden Atlantic. Put on your flip-flops, bring your beach towel, sunscreen and sunglasses along with the newest summer read. Snorkel with the kids and enjoy the myriad wonders of Florida’s coast. Wherever you live in Florida, the beach won’t be too far away. And Florida's beaches are open for business and free. There are no beach closures, and all Florida waters in the Gulf remain open to commercial and recreational fishing.

Then take a look at some of the other natural wonders of our state. Florida is home to the Floridan aquifer – an underground river that flows through the limestone karst from Georgia out to Florida's coast. Rising up from deep within the aquifer, cool clear water flows up to more than 600 springs that dot the Florida landscape. Experience Florida springs by swimming, paddling or just observing the clear waters and native wildlife.

Wakulla Spring, just south of Tallahassee, is one of the largest freshwater springs in the world and a crown jewel in the Florida spring system. Take a real jungle cruise where your guide will point out many animals and plants, and usually alligators sunning in the wild. Jump off the swim tower into the deep blue spring for a truly cool thrill as Florida spring water stays about 72 degrees year-round!

Take a tour of Wakulla Spring in this Interactive Spring Feature. Learn about the history, people and geology that define this amazing spring system located within the Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park.

VisitFlorida.com has great regional or themed drive trips that will reintroduce the benefits of living so close to some of the nation’s finest vacation spots. They also offer money-saving ideas for budget-conscious travelers. Save some money this year and support Florida’s local economy by enjoying the sunshine state!


Safeguard Our Seniors Helps Protect Floridians

Every day, hundreds of Floridians fall victim to financial fraud. Many of these victims are trusting seniors who were misled into making risky or inappropriate financial investments including annuities and reverse mortgages by unscrupulous agents and scam artists. In response, CFO Sink created the Safeguard Our Seniors Task Force to develop solutions to better protect Florida seniors from falling victim to financial fraud.

The Department of Financial Services offers these Safeguard Our Seniors events so that you can learn how to guard against fraud and scams targeting seniors.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010 On Top Of The World Retirement Community, 8415 SW 80th Street, Ocala, FL 1:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m.

Thursday, May 27, 2010 HealthSouth Rehabilitation Hospital, 6400 Edgelake Drive, Sarasota, FL 34240 7:30 a.m. – 9:30 a.m.

Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink's Consumer eViews 1-877-MY-FL-CFO