Volume 8 Number 11 March 18, 2011
Dear Fellow Floridians:
When I took office in January, I put the word out to Florida's PIP fraud scammers that we would be coming after them. Since January, our insurance fraud detectives have made more than 100 PIP fraud arrests, that is more than one a day and speaks to our commitment and the magnitude of the PIP fraud epidemic in our state.
On Wednesday, I joined Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff (R-Ft. Lauderdale) and Rep. James Boyd (R-Manatee) to introduce two bills (SB 1930 and HB 1411) that will crack down on PIP fraud. The anti-fraud measures include stiffer penalties for crooks gaming the system, provide law enforcement with more tools, and help protect consumers from staged accidents.
According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau, Florida ranks number one in the nation for staged auto accidents. Research from Insurance Information Institute indicates that if PIP fraud continues in our state without much needed reforms, Floridians will, on average, pay $83 more a year for their auto insurance to cover the thieves who are gaming the system. Fraud is a tax on every honest individual in this state who is just trying to make ends meet.
In addition to criminal penalties, this legislation creates civil penalties for those convicted of automobile insurance fraud, the proceeds of which will be used to fund additional anti-fraud efforts. We can use these additional resources to fund dedicated prosecutors and put more boots on the ground to root out these sophisticated PIP fraud rings.
Thank you, Sen. Bogdanoff and Rep. Boyd, for recognizing these issues and for your efforts to create effective solutions. Strong leadership is exactly what is needed in order to bring an end to fraudulent activity in our state. I am eager to implement reforms that will help reduce the fraud in our auto insurance market that is costing Floridians hundreds of dollars a year in increased premiums.
Chief Financial Officer
State of Florida
This week, CFO Atwater discussed his priorities with Steve Wilkerson, President of the Florida Cable Telecommunications Association on Capital Dateline Online. Please check out the interview at the following link: http://www.capitaldatelineonline.com/.
Each week I will be highlighting a new local, small business from the road. I am proud to be a champion of small businesses.
During a recent visit to West Palm Beach, I was fortunate to meet Blair Brandt, owner of The Next Step Realty, a real estate leads network connecting college graduates from around the country with leasing brokers in major cities. The business grew out of Blair's and his business partner Belton Baker's frustration with the lack of a network that could connect them to other young professionals new to a city. They wanted to foster relationships in the community that could turn into long-term clients, and at the same time, assist other young professionals who were moving to a new city get settled and adjusted.
The company has been in business for over a year, and has grown to help graduates in approximately 20 states and 17 countries in Europe. Both Blair and Belton took a frustration and turned it into a successful business. I commend these forward-thinking, young professionals. It is my hope that they continue to use their entrepreneurship to better their community.
CFO Jeff Atwater's Department of Financial Services will take part in a series of workshops hosted by Representative Doug Broxson throughout the Panhandle to assist victims of the BP Oil Spill.
The first workshop will be held Monday, March 21, 2011, in Pensacola Beach from 6 - 9 p.m. at the Pensacola Beach Community Church. Claimants are encouraged to attend, regardless of what type of claim they have and what stage of the claims process they are in.
Attendees will be able to speak one-on-one to department staff who will be prepared to review claims, offer suggestions and assist in getting answers from the BP claims offices.
Other workshops will be held in the Panhandle in the coming weeks. For a schedule of workshops or for more information call the Consumer Helpline at (850) 413-2961 or toll-free at 1-877-MY-FL-CFO (1-877-693-5236).
CFO Atwater this week recognized Senators Don Gaetz (R-Destin), Greg Evers (R-Baker), Representatives Jimmy Patronis (R-Panama City), Clay Ingram (R-Pensacola), Marti Coley (R-Marianna), Brad Drake (R-Eucheeanna), and Doug Broxson (R-Gulf Breeze) for their efforts to provide relief to victims of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
"As we approach the one year anniversary of the tragic Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the efforts of Senator Gaetz and leaders in the House of Representatives show the continued commitment in Tallahassee to aid our fellow Floridians in the great Northwest who were devastated through no fault of their own by this tragic event.
"I commend their legislative initiatives and join with them in continuing to fight to ensure that Florida families and business owners receive the compensation they are due from the impacts of the oil spill. I am looking forward to hosting a series of workshops with these legislative leaders to aid Floridians seeking the funds they deserve from Mr. Feinberg and the Gulf Coast Claims Facility."
This past weekend, I had the opportunity to participate in two parades in honor of St. Patrick's Day in Palm Beach County. It was great to meet the citizens of Palm Beach Shores at their parade in the morning. This 22-year tradition has evolved from a small group of about 10 residents to a fully fledged parade with pipe and drum band and floats. I was also invited to participate in the Palm Beach County Professional Firefighters and Paramedics parade in Delray Beach. It was an honor to ride alongside the brave men and women that selflessly put others' safety in front of their own.
Thank you to both the community of Palm Beach Shores and the Palm Beach County Professional Firefighters and Paramedics for the privilege of joining in their parades!
Florida CFO Jeff Atwater announced that the Department of Financial Services' Divisions of Agent and Agency Services and Legal Services took 118 disciplinary actions against insurance professionals and other entities during the month of February and recovered more than $280,000 for consumers while conducting investigations.
More details on these actions can be found on the department's Division of Agent and Agency Services website at www.MyFloridaCFO.com/Agents. The division licenses and regulates over 500,000 insurance agents, adjusters, and agencies. The Division of Legal Services provides legal counsel, advice, and representation to the regulatory, administrative, and support offices of the Chief Financial Officer and the State Fire Marshal.
What's on the Menu? A Recipe for Financial Literacy Success
It's safe to say one of the major ingredients in a lot of American households today is financial pressure. In this challenging economy, the average family has at the very least been tightening purse strings while many are struggling to make ends meet.
The Volunteer USA Foundation offering a program that helps parents and students understand how important household budgeting and savings skills are - all while boosting the fundamentals of math. With a two-tiered approach, including four free lesson plans for teachers to use in the classroom and a fun after-school workshop, the whole family experiences how the fundamentals of math apply to everything from calculating restaurant tips, to opening checking and savings accounts and how interest can help them earn even more.
For a limited time, the "What's on the Menu?" Financial Education for Families is available at no cost to elementary schools in Florida - register online today.
UPCOMING PARENT TRAININGS