Volume 8 Number 12 March 25 2011
Dear Fellow Floridians:
As we approach the one year anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill, it is important that we continue to fight for our fellow Floridians in the Panhandle. Almost a year has passed and many small businesses that were financially harmed by the impacts of the oil spill are still waiting for the payments they deserve from Ken Feinberg and the Gulf Coast Claims Facility. Many of these businesses are eagerly awaiting payment so they can prepare for the upcoming summer tourist season.
Next week, I will once again return to the Panhandle to connect with with community leaders, local businesses and charter fisherman to get an on-the-ground feel for how the Panhandle communities and businesses are recovering. I also want to know what we can do better to support them in that recovery. My office has been working tirelessly with claimants to help navigate the BP claims processes, and I want to make sure that impacted businesses know that we are here to help. In the near future, I will also be traveling to other communities along the west coast that have been affected by the oil spill with which my office has been working.
On Monday night in Ft. Walton, I will be attending one in a series of workshops aimed at assisting victims of the BP oil spill. Staff from the Department of Financial Services will be on hand to speak one-on-one with claimants and will be prepared to review claims, offer suggestions and assist in getting answers from the BP claims offices. Our goal has been and will continue to be to ensure we get the information and resources we need to assist claimants in making sure they are fully compensated for financial losses caused by the spill.
In our continued effort to help claimants, the Department of Financial Services has launched a new Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill website to share what we are learning from GCCF with claimants. You can access it through our webpage at www.MyFloridaCFO.com. This website will continue to be updated with information and tips about the claims process.
I could not visit the Panhandle without meeting with a representative from GCCF to discuss our concerns regarding the claims process. I have written several letters to Mr. Feinberg about my frustrations with the claims process, and I am eager to share my thoughts face-to-face with one of Mr. Feinberg’s representatives.
My goal is simple. I want to make sure the businesses and residents of Florida get the compensation they are rightly owed by GCCF and Mr. Feinberg. That is money that belongs in the hands of Floridians in the Panhandle. As long as there are claimants who have not received compensation, I will continue to fight for Floridians who have been victimized and harmed through no fault of their own by this tragedy.
Chief Financial Officer
State of Florida
This week in Tallahassee I had the opportunity to meet and speak with different groups that were advocating on behalf of their organizations. On Tuesday, I met with members of the Student Government Association from Florida Atlantic University. These students came to Tallahassee, along with other students from various universities and colleges across Florida, to meet with elected officials to discuss the importance of investing in Florida’s future through the state university system.
I also met with firefighters from Broward County, the brave men and women who selflessly put others’ safety in front of their own. They deserve our praise and gratitude.
I had the honor to stop by the Florida Farm Bureau Briefing Dinner on Tuesday evening, and met with members of the Florida agriculture community. This industry is essential to Florida’s economy, and we must ensure that it continues to be an economic driver for our state.
After my stop at the Florida Farm Bureau, I attended the Small County Coalition of Florida dinner and was humbled to receive the Outstanding State Leaders award. This award is given to leaders who demonstrate consistent leadership that enables the support of critical programs and priorities of Florida’s counties including county road programs, county library funding, economic development initiatives and other physically constrained county programs. State Fire Marshal Division Director Julius Halas also received the award.
Wednesday morning, I spoke at the morning session of the Associated Builders and Contractors annual meeting. My Division of Insurance Fraud works hard to combat all types of insurance fraud; including workers' compensation fraud which directly impacts this industry. The crooks that create shell companies to skirt the workers' comp requirements are able to underbid contractors who play by the rules. We have already made over 30 workers' comp arrests this year, and I can assure you, there will be more arrests made in the next few months.
Wednesday, I had the honor of sponsoring a resolution designating March 23, 2011, as Developmental Disabilities Awareness Day as well as speaking to this inspiring group of advocates. Developmental Awareness Day encourages all Floridians to participate in events recognizing and celebrating Florida’s diverse population of persons with developmental disabilities. We must press onward so that Florida may become all it can be by allowing the opportunity for everyone of us to become all we can be.
Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater on Thursday announced the launch of an enhanced website for vendors doing business with the State of Florida. The new website enables vendors to complete and submit a Florida Substitute Form W-9 electronically at https://flvendor.myfloridacfo.com/. The website allows the Department of Financial Services to avoid costs of approximately $200,000 for implementing a new federal requirement.
“With more than 250,000 vendors doing business with our state, it is critical that we streamline existing processes and automate outdated paper forms to keep pace with the way business is done in the 21st century,” said CFO Atwater. “Implementing online processes, like this one, is an important way the state can avoid costs and use resources wisely.”
Businesses that are subject to 1099 reporting and receive payment from the state are required by federal law to submit a W-9. The new website automates submissions and streamlines the federally mandated process. The website launch is the first milestone in a multi-year initiative to implement the new federal law that requires the state to withhold three percent from most vendor payments and remit withholdings to the Internal Revenue Service. The Three Percent Federal Withholding Law takes effect on January 1, 2012.
The Department of Financial Services (DFS) has updated Florida’s Substitute Form W-9 and will be obtaining new forms for more than 250,000 vendors. The previous process required vendors to submit a paper Form W-9, which was manually input by DFS staff into the state’s accounting system. The new vendor website allows businesses to submit W-9s electronically that are then systematically loaded into the state’s accounting system, creating a more efficient and effective process. The new website will also help DFS communicate with vendors on the implementation and requirements of the Three Percent Federal Withholding Law.
For more information regarding the vendor website or the Three Percent Federal Withholding Law, contact the DFS Vendor Management Section at (850) 413-5519 or FLW9@myfloridacfo.com.
As we watch Japan focus on difficult challenges to survive and rebuild, please consider a donation. You can text REDCROSS to 90999 to make a donation and support their disaster relief efforts to help whose affected by the earthquake in Japan and tsunami throughout the Pacific. You can also visit http://www.redcross.org/ to make a donation online.
Being able to care for yourself is a sign of your independence, and homemaker service contracts are designed to assist with your basic day-to-day needs so you can remain in your home. These contracts provide non-medical services and are NOT INSURANCE policies. Below are some tips to provide you with a better understanding of homemaker contracts:
For more information on insurance-related questions, visit the Department’s Web site at www.MyFloridaCFO.com.
This column will regularly highlight the work of the department’s enforcement divisions. This week features recent activity by detectives within the Bureau of Fire and Arson Investigations, a sworn law enforcement agency within the State Fire Marshal’s Office.
Ocala Man Charged in Two House Fires
Rudy Baez, 19, of Ocala, was arrested on charges of arson and burglary. After a house fire in January, a K-9 indicated the fire was incendiary and investigators found that electronics were missing from the home. As the investigation continued, further information linked Baez to a September 2008 fire. Baez faces up to 30 years in prison if convicted on the charges.
Parker man arrested for setting fire to an RV
Ryan K. Oliver, 30, of Parker, was arrested and charged with arson or burning to defraud and filing a false and fraudulent insurance claim. A suspicious RV fire prompted an investigation, and it was determined that the fire was incendiary. Oliver faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted on the charges.
Many stores right now are having end-of-season closeouts to get rid of their winter inventory and make room for the incoming warm weather clothes. Hunt down the red clearance tickets and you can score big, saving valuable dollars in your budget.