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My Florida C F O
Weekly eNewsletter from Florida's Chief Financial Officer

Dear Fellow Floridian:

At a meeting of the Florida Cabinet this week, the Division of Bond Finance reported that Florida has reduced its outstanding debt by $2 billion over the last two years.

Total state outstanding debt decreased by approximately $500 million in 2011 and is expected to decrease by $1.5 billion this year.

Ben Watkins, director of the Division of Bond Finance, also reported that ongoing debt refinancing has saved taxpayers an additional $744 million on future interest payments over the last two years. Of this, $53 million in interest savings was achieved by using the state treasury as an investment vehicle to assist in bond refunding.

We have proven yet again that an unwavering commitment to making tough decisions in tight financial times equates to a more prosperous Florida. These decisions have preserved our AAA credit rating, reduced our debt and continued to cultivate an attractive, stable business environment. Additionally, we have refinanced our outstanding debt to lower interest rates, which serves as another example of how fiscal discipline helps keep money in the pockets of hardworking Floridians.

I commend Director Watkins for his diligent efforts and commitment to our fellow Floridians.

Jeff Atwater
Jeff Atwater
Chief Financial Officer
State of Florida

DFS: $61 million in Settlement Money

Through joint investigative efforts with other states, Florida found a widespread practice among insurers selectively using the Social Security Death Master File to stop making payments when policyholders passed away. Although companies were using this file to their advantage, they were at the same time ignoring it to pay death benefits to the rightful beneficiaries.

CFO Atwater’s team helped to negotiate an estimated $61 million in settlement money for consumers. To date, the CFO’s office has reached settlement agreements with Prudential, John Hancock, Nationwide, MetLife and AIG. For more information on the settlement agreements visit www.myfloridacfo.com/division/consumers.

Unclaimed Property: Have You Checked?

You know the feeling when the $20 bill you left in your pocket turns up in the dryer? It’s a good feeling. And every year, Floridians have this same feeling when they discover their forgotten treasure through CFO Jeff Atwater's Bureau of Unclaimed Property. The bureau holds money from dormant accounts from financial institutions, insurance and utility companies, securities and trust holdings until the owners are found. Oftentimes, abandoned safe deposit boxes hold forgotten property. The contents of abandoned boxes are sent to the bureau to hold until the rightful owners or heirs are found. FLTreasureHunt.org, 1-88-Valuable

The bureau is proactive and diligent in its efforts to reconnect Floridians with their lost or forgotten property. Since CFO Atwater took office, records have been broken by putting $375 million back in the hands of Floridians. But there is currently an estimated $1 billion in unclaimed property accounts waiting for the rightful owners. Search www.fltreasurehunt.org or call 1-88-VALUABLE to see if you have an unclaimed property account. And remember, there is no charge to claim your unclaimed property from the state.

News of Interest

The Ledger: State Debt to Decline for Second Year in a Row

Orlando Business Journal: Analysis: Florida adds 4,200 construction jobs in 12 months

Palm Beach Post: Palm Beach boat show adds $77 million to South Florida economy

South Florida Business Journal: SBA loans to small business exporters on the rise

Miami Herald: UM says it adds $6B to economy each year

Miami Herald: Miami tech entrepreneur launches itopia, a cloud computing venture

Hurricane Sandy Skirts the Florida Coast

Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater is urging Floridians to ensure they have financial documents and home inventories gathered as Hurricane Sandy threatens the state. A tropical storm warning has been issued for much of the east coast of Florida and as a result, homeowners need to thoroughly review the coverage they have. Map of Sandy's projected path up the east coast of the U.S

Once a tropical storm warning has been issued, you are unable to make changes to your policy and this continues until 72 hours following the termination of the last hurricane watch or warning issued for any part of Florida by the National Hurricane Center.

CFO Atwater’s Disaster Preparation webpage has many tips and details on how to prepare for a potential disaster, and insurance specialists are available Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., on the CFO’s Consumer Helpline at 1-877-MY-FL-CFO (1-877-693-5236) to assist with questions you may have about your coverage.

Florida's Bottom Line

Florida's Bottom Line: Investing in Florida's FutureThis quarter’s issue of Florida’s Bottom Line focuses on how federal regulations are causing community banks and credit unions to divert resources away from lending to small businesses, causing them to spend increased amounts of time and money attempting to comply with new federal rules. Florida’s Bottom Line also provides the most up-to-date financial and economic statistics for Florida, serving as a roadmap for your financial future.

Florida Students $ave Essay Contest

With almost half of graduating high school seniors saying they’re unsure or unprepared to manage their own personal finances, and with the average 23- to 28-year-old carrying more than $14,000 in debt, it’s clear that there is a need to prepare our teens for the opportunities and challenges that their futures hold.Florida Students $ave Essay Contest

Working with Florida Master Money Mentors, The James Madison Institute and the Florida Council on Economic Education, we have developed the Florida Students $ave Essay Contest. The contest is part of the Your Money Matters education initiative, which aims to equip Floridians with financial knowledge in an easy and accessible way.

The goal of the contest is to motivate young people to develop personal financial skills and better prepare them for college and the workplace. The contest will award hundreds of dollars to Florida students who present the best research and planning in response to scenarios that reflect on short- and long-term financial goals.

The contest is open to all Florida high school students (public, private, charter, virtual or homeschool) for the 2012-13 school year. From now through Nov. 30, students can submit essays of up to 1,200 words for a chance to win a first-place prize of $250. Second- and third-place winners will receive $150 and $50 respectively. Three winners will be chosen from each of five regions across Florida: Northwest Florida, Jacksonville, Orlando, Tampa and South Florida.

For more information about the essay contest, including a list of contest rules, regions and how to submit an essay, visit www.MyFloridaCFO.com/YMM or call the Division of Consumer Services helpline at 1-877-MY-FL-CFO (693-5236).