Volume 7 Number 34 August 20, 2010
This weekend I am excited to participate in my Bureau of Unclaimed Property’s annual auction in Orlando. The auction itself is a lot of fun; this year we have beautiful jewelry, rare coins, gold bars from abandoned shipwrecks and more, and I love serving as the “guest auctioneer” as I have done the past few years. But the best part about the auction every year is that Floridians statewide hear about it and go to our website, www.FLTreasureHunt.org, to check and see if we have their treasure waiting.
The bureau has recently received a record number of new accounts, so even if you’ve checked before, you should check again. Just this morning, I returned a check for $30,000 to an Orlando woman who had no idea the state was holding this money for her! I encourage you to spend a few minutes this weekend and check out www.FLTreasureHunt.org!
State of Florida
Florida CFO Alex Sink this week returned a check for $30,000 in unclaimed property to an 80-year-old senior Orlando resident and also previewed items to be sold at her Bureau of Unclaimed Property’s annual auction happening on Saturday. The auction, an annual sale of unclaimed safe deposit box contents turned over to the state, is open to the public and begins at 10 a.m. August 21 at the Florida Hotel and Conference Center at the Florida Mall.
“The opportunity to return this $30,000 to its rightful owner is a perfect example of why all Floridians should visit FLTreasureHunt.org to see what property they may have waiting. said CFO Sink. “We’ve collected a record amount of unclaimed property in the past year, and even if Floridians have visited the site before, it’s always worth checking again.”
Lynn, the Orlando senior who received the $30,000 check from CFO Sink, had no idea that she had this property until she received a check from the Bureau of Unclaimed Property earlier this year. Lynn, a retired nurse of more than 50 years, had paid into an employee stock option plan, but when the company she worked for went out of business, lost track of her investment. Still active in her community and her church, Lynn volunteers regularly at her local food bank.
CFO Sink will also serve as guest auctioneer at Saturday’s annual event, taking bids on the first 10 auction lots of the day. There’s something for everyone with more than 40,000 individual items with a minimum reserve value in excess of $600,000, including jewelry, watches, and rare coins will be sold. Featured items include a 52-ounce, 22K gold finger bar from a shipwreck; a platinum necklace with 214 diamonds totaling 28 carats; an 18K Rolex “Daytona” men’s watch; and a platinum ring with a 6.6 carat, flawless diamond. A free catalog, along with details about the auction, is available at www.FLTreasureHunt.org. Participation in the auction is open to the public, but requires registration and a refundable $100 deposit.
Unclaimed money is deposited into the state school fund, where it is used for public education. There is, however, no statute of limitations, and citizens have the right to claim their property any time at no cost.
In the past year alone, CFO Sink’s Florida Bureau of Unclaimed Property has reunited citizens with more than $188 million, the largest amount in state history. During Alex Sink’s tenure as CFO, the Bureau of Unclaimed Property has seen record returns, reuniting owners, heirs and businesses with more than one-third of all money returned since the beginning of the program, due largely to aggressive efforts to contact owners. Since the program’s inception 48 years ago, the Bureau of Unclaimed Property has successfully reunited owners or relatives of deceased owners with more than $1.6 billion in unclaimed property held in Florida.
The Bureau of Unclaimed Property is currently holding 9 million accounts, mostly from dormant accounts in financial institutions, unclaimed utility deposits, insurance benefits, premium refunds, uncashed checks and trust accounts. It also holds watches, jewelry, coins, stamps and historical items from abandoned safe deposit boxes. Unclaimed property can be claimed for free at any time by the rightful owners or heirs by logging on to www.FLTreasureHunt.org or by calling the Bureau at 1-88-VALUABLE.
On Monday, CFO Sink gave one of the keynote speeches at the 65th Annual Workers’ Compensation Educational Conference, which was held in Orlando. It is one of the largest workers’ compensation conferences in the nation attracting over 3,000 attendees. Educational sessions were held throughout the four-day event that focused on every aspect of the workers’ compensation system. As part of the conference, the Division of Worker’s Compensation held a half-day session to update attendees about its regulatory activities and initiatives.
In her remarks, CFO Sink emphasized the importance of creating and maintaining a healthy workers’ compensation system that focuses on providing adequate and timely benefits to injured workers while eliminating unnecessary costs so as to keep employers’ premiums at competitive levels. She also highlighted some statistics from the Division of Workers’ Compensation that show when injured workers do not receive information about their claim, they feel dissatisfied about their medical treatment, are not in contact with their employer, or have not returned to work; they are one and half to two times more likely to engage in litigation. She also spoke about the continued need to sanction employers who do not have coverage for their employees.
Florida CFO Alex Sink on Thursday commended four Florida organizations awarded more than $27 million in rural broadband grants to increase affordable high-speed Internet access in underserved, rural areas throughout the state. The broadband projects provided through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act will support and improve access to healthcare, educational opportunities, library services, public safety services, and the creation of jobs.
“In today's world, access to the Internet is a necessity, whether you're looking for a job or increased educational opportunities,” said CFO Alex Sink. “These broadband grants are essential for serving the diverse needs of communities, from economic development to public safety."
The grants were awarded to the Florida Rural Broadband Alliance for $23.7 million, the City of Tallahassee for $1.2 million, the Tampa Housing Authority for $2.1 million and the USDA Quincy Telephone Company for $1.3 million. The increased Internet access will serve more than 30 rural counties and benefit more than 400,000 Florida citizens and 16,000 businesses.
Florida CFO Alex Sink on Tuesday sent a letter to BP Deputy Incident Commander Mary Shafer-Malicki urging BP to do the right thing and revisit the company’s decision not to pay May claims from Florida businesses on the basis that oil had not yet reached Florida’s beaches.
“I am deeply disappointed to learn that BP has gone back on its word to the people of Florida and decided not to honor May claims made by Florida business owners and residents,” said CFO Alex Sink. “BP’s widely broadcast television ads proclaim that BP will ‘make it right.’ Only making part of it right isn’t enough. I strongly urge you to revisit this decision and ensure that Florida’s businesses are given the compensation they are owed for the month of May, when many experienced significant losses through no fault of their own.”
On July 8, CFO Sink called on Gulf Coast Claims Facility Administrator Kenneth Feinberg for full accountability to Florida’s impacted businesses in the new claims process scheduled to go into effect later this month. On July 12, CFO Sink urged House Speaker Cretul and Senate President Atwater to include protections for Florida business in the claims process in the July 20-23 special session.
In early June, as part of the Department’s Consumer Outreach team, Misty Cash was in Pensacola working with local agencies and businesses trying to find ways to assist those affected by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. While making spontaneous stops at area businesses on Pensacola Beach, Misty met Jeff Elbert, owner of four Island Style beach stores. As might be expected, a beach store's income is dependent on tourists coming in to find the perfect item to commemorate their beach vacation.
Mr. Elbert's stores are more than 40 years old and started when his mother hand-painted sand dollars for visiting tourists. As Jeff Elbert would say, his business these days is all about bikinis, boogie boards and flip-flops.
Mr. Elbert was frustrated with BP and the claims process they had in place. He has emails where he had provided his claims adjuster copies of his businesses’ documentation, only to have the adjuster say on several occasions that Mr. Elbert's paperwork had been lost and to please resubmit it.
With Mr. Elbert’s help, businesses along the Gulf coast have had someone speaking up for them because he took his experience and frustrations and voiced them on behalf of every Florida business owner.
On Monday, after months of countless unreturned phone calls and six claims adjusters, Jeff Elbert received his first claim check from BP. And Mr. Elbert, along with the Department, is optimistic that on August 23 when Ken Feinberg officially takes over the claims process from BP, claimants will have a much smoother process and less frustration.
For information and resources on the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, visit www.MyFloridaCFO.com.
The death of a loved one is a difficult time. In addition to the emotional stress, financial burdens may also arise. Life insurance is intended to assist with these financial burdens. While life insurance policies provide for a single payment of the death benefit, policies may also offer other payout options that are intended to fit your needs. Consider the following information if a life insurance company offers you a Retained Asset Account as an option to a single payment.
What is a Retained Asset Account?
A Retained Asset Account (RAA) is a temporary repository of funds. The account’s function is to give you (the beneficiary) the time you need to consider all of the financial options available. The payment of the total proceeds will be accomplished by delivery of a “checkbook.” While the documents you receive might look like a checkbook, it might actually be drafts which are similar to checks, but different in some ways.
The use of an RAA provides you the flexibility to make the right decision regarding your long-term financial needs while earning interest on the life insurance proceeds. You can choose to write one check or draft to access the entire proceeds at any time.
RAAs are generally provided as an option to the beneficiary, however for some group policies, the employer might have agreed that an RAA is the only way life insurance claims are settled. If that is true in your case, you may write a check or draft to transfer the remaining funds as you see fit.
Key Questions to Ask and Issues to Understand
If you are considering the option of an RAA or are provided one to settle a death claim, here are some important issues to consider:
Other Payout Options
One size does not fit all and this is why various payout options are offered. If you choose to initially receive life insurance proceeds through an RAA, other payment options should be preserved until the entire balance is withdrawn or the balance drops below a certain dollar amount. Other payout options may include one or more of the following:
If you have questions about RAAs or other life insurance proceed options, visit us at www.myfloridacfo.com.
A 16-year-old was arrested and charged with a felony earlier this week for an arson fire that occurred at 2706 East 18 Avenue in Tampa, Florida.
Approximately $60,000 worth of damage was caused to the vacant house. Investigators from the State Fire Marshal, the Tampa Fire Marshal and Tampa police quickly identified and arrested Michael R. Craig. He admitted entering the vacant home and setting a couch inside on fire. Craig has not been connected with any of the other arson fires in the area at this time. He was taken to the Juvenile Assessment Center.
This arrest stems from the ongoing investigative efforts by the Arson Task Force working on the V.M. Ybor arson fires. The task force comprises the State Fire Marshal’s Bureau of Fire & Arson Investigation detectives, the Tampa Police Department, Tampa Fire Rescue and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.
Just last month the task force arrested Kenneth B. Smith, 43, Chicago, on arson charges stemming from the V.M. Ybor fires. It is alleged that Smith is responsible for 13 fires in the neighborhood.
A new school year is rapidly approaching. College brings many new adventures and life lessons to students and their families. Though many young people feel as though they are invincible, the reality is that young people need health insurance, too. In case of an unexpected accident resulting in hospitalization, students should be aware of how to avoid hefty health care bills by obtaining health insurance. The Office of the Insurance Consumer Advocate would like to encourage students and their families to include health insurance coverage as a part of their scholastic expenses for the upcoming school year.
With the enactment of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, health insurance has become more available to young people. Students and parents should be aware of the health care options that are available with a multitude of choices for college students. This article will serve as a guide to help families navigate the process of obtaining health insurance for college students.
Beginning September 23, 2010, young adults under the age of 26 can remain on their parent’s health insurance plan. This applies as long as a job-based health insurance plan is not available to the young adult. Students currently on a parent’s policy should consider remaining on the policy to ensure familiarity with coverage but should be aware of out-of-area expenses. Consumers should also note beginning in 2014, unemployed young adults with a limited income of up to $15,000 a year may be eligible for Medicaid.
Students unable to obtain health insurance through a parent’s policy should consider obtaining a health insurance policy from their educational institution. Many colleges and universities offer policies with annual premiums ranging from under $100 for temporary insurance to a high of $2,500 for standard coverage and many ranges in between.
In the event a student is unable to remain on their parent’s health insurance plan or obtain health insurance from their college or university, students can purchase an individual insurance policy. Consumers should be aware that although individual policies are available, they are typically more expensive than plans offered through colleges and universities. Therefore, students and families should explore all options prior to purchasing an individual policy.
Consumers should contact their insurer to obtain any additional information regarding coverage for a college student or young adult.
Consumers that have any additional questions regarding health insurance coverage for college students should contact the Division of Consumer Services within the Department of Financial Services on-line at http://www.myfloridacfo.com/Consumers/ or by phone at 1-877-MY-FL-CFO (1-877-693-5236), toll-free in Florida, and (850) 413-3089 from out of state.
The Insurance Consumer Advocate is appointed by Florida Chief Financial Officer 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.
You see it every evening on the news. Someone is suffering a crisis and just needs a helping hand, but never fail, there is always someone out there trying to take advantage of their vulnerability. And with so many Floridians facing mortgage difficulties, mortgage fraud is increasing.
This is why Terry Cerullo, consumer outreach coordinator for the Department in Ft. Myers, scheduled a meeting with various HUD counselors, legal services and other local housing authorities to talk about ways to help homeowners and combat mortgage frauds and scams as part of the Department’s Florida Housing Help initiative.
Typically, these scams offer homeowners help in negotiating loan modifications, for a fee, but never actually do anything to help the homeowner.
Since February, there have been 4,000 complaints totally almost $14 million in losses to consumers. A group called the Loan Modification Scam Prevention Network is trying to collect data and information in order to identify trends.
The Department organized the meeting to allow area service providers to share information and discuss their services.
The Florida Housing Help website can help connect struggling Floridians who may be at risk of losing their homes to foreclosure or may be facing mortgage fraud issues with assistance. For a schedule of workshops that include community partners and resources and offer great information for citizens, read the Florida Housing Help Calendar.
When preparing for hurricanes, people often forget a few very important things:
With that in mind, here are some things that everyone should know:
Make sure you and your family take advantage of training and resources available to you. Everyone needs to have a plan in case of an emergency. It is good to discuss and go over your plan so no one will panic in the event of an actual disaster. For more information, on disaster preparation and creating a plan, visit www.MyFloridaCFO.com.
Find out when a Hurricane Preparedness event will be in your area on our Calendar of Events. Check back with us next week for more ideas.
Move forward. If you are not a computer wizard take classes at a local senior center or community college and get a head start on learning how to use one. Make the second half of your life a new beginning. You may not use your degree to climb the corporate ladder but you can achieve your own personal goals. It's true, age is just a number.
FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid)-The FAFSA application can be completed online and it is the first step to getting government financial aid. The government does not discriminate because of your age. Seniors can qualify for government grants if they do not have an undergraduate degree. Grants include the Pell, FSEOG (Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant, Teacher Education Grants, Academic Competiveness (this program ends in 2011), National SMART Grants, work study grants and LEAP Grants.
Tuition Waivers-Most states offer tuition waivers to seniors 62 and over to earn college degrees. Check with your local college or university to find out if they offer waivers or reduced tuition. The American Council on Education says about 60% of colleges and universities offer waivers. Generally books, computers and other school related materials are not included in the tuition waiver. However, there are grants and other financial resources to help you pay for your books and other related items you may need. Some of the colleges that offer tuition waivers include North Carolina at Chapel Hill, University of Virginia, University of Delaware and Northern Michigan University.
Scholarships-The University of Alabama offers an Adults Scholarship Program and the University of Phoenix offers a First Chance Scholarships to adults entering college for the first time. Seniors can also go online to fastweb.com, create a profile and find other scholarships that are available for older students.
For women, AARP (American Association of Retired Persons) offers scholarships for education and other financial needs and AAUW (American Association of University Women) offers scholarships and fellowships for women to attend college.
Private Grants for Older Adults-Foundations also offer educational assistance for older college students. Specifically for women over 35-years-old the Jeannette Rankin Foundation offers grants and for women over 40 the Avon Foundation for Women has competitive grants for women. A central location to find private grants for individuals is the Foundation Center. To locate more private foundations that make grants to older individuals check the Foundation Center's website. It list over 8,000 private foundations to make grants to individuals.
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.
Over the last two years, CFO Sink’s Department of Financial Services has held more than 400 Safeguard Our Seniors events throughout the state to teach how to guard against fraud and scams targeting seniors. Calendar of Events
The quickest way to increase your bank balance is to not spend in the first place. Frugality is popular right now and excessive spending is out. Resist buying that coffee at the fancy coffee store. Don't purchase new clothes when the ones you have will do. And don't use the credit card if you can't pay it in full each month. Only in an emergency should the credit card be used in excess of the ability to pay it off. Carrying a balance is an expensive way to live.
Buy the cheapest version of an item in the supermarket and buy what's on special. These savings add up quickly each time you shop. Check quantity versus price - sometimes it's cheaper to buy a larger package, but not always. Buying perishable items on sale, such as bread, and freezing it will save you money. If an item you use regularly such as shampoo or toothpaste is on special or has a deal for quantity, stock up.
Remember to minimize your necessary expenditures and scrutinize each dollar you spend. Make sure you understand the difference between a necessity and a desire. Necessities are food, shelter and transportation to your place of employment or study.
You can cut back on new clothing, expensive hair cuts, electronics and appliances, cell phone plans, eating out, and entertainment. Try to reduce the use of your car by riding your bicycle, using public transit or organizing a car pool to get to work.
These savings will add up and your bank balance account should show a positive difference.