My Florida C F O

Dear Fellow Floridians:

As I have traveled across Florida, visiting with law enforcement, local leaders and families that were impacted by Hurricane Irma, I’ve witnessed a true sense of community and service in our state. Sadly, storms tend to bring out the best – and the worst – in people. As you continue your recovery, be on the lookout for opportunistic scammers who may try to cheat you.

Hurricane Irma Insurance ResourcesThe sad fact is that there are people who will attempt to take advantage of our fellow Floridians during this time, so even if your home or business was spared, keep your eyes and ears peeled for your friends and neighbors.

First and foremost, if a repair company makes an offer that sounds too good to be true, it probably is and could be fraud. Fly-by-night repair companies that lack proper training, licensing and insurance coverage, may make you an offer that sounds far cheaper than any other company in town. Don’t fall for it! The work provided by these fly-by-night companies is likely to be sub-par, and it might have to be re-done down the road, costing you even more money.

Make sure you are hiring only licensed professionals by verifying your contractor’s license, using the Department of Business and Professional Regulation’s online tool.

Next, be clear on the details of all contracts you are asked to sign. Ask questions until you know how much the work is going to cost, what work is going to be performed, and whether you or your insurance company will be responsible for payment. Do not inadvertently sign your insurance claim rights over to a repair company by signing a document that you didn’t understand.

Part of your rebuilding efforts may also include the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA. Several FEMA scams were reported in North Florida after Hurricane Hermine, as well as in Texas following Hurricane Harvey.

Keep an eye out for the following things:

  • FEMA imposters going door-to-door, asking for money to assist with the filing of federal flood claims. FEMA does not charge for this service and does not go door-to-door in this capacity.
  • Robocalls from FEMA imposters, asking consumers to hang up and dial a 1-800 number to make an insurance payment ASAP to prevent policy cancellations.

To better protect yourself, verify the identity of all individuals claiming to represent government and relief agencies or insurance companies. Official personnel should display their ID badges, should provide identification without hesitation upon request, and say why they are in the area. If you suspect that someone is impersonating official personnel, contact the local police department or sheriff’s office immediately.

Our Insurance Consumer Helpline is a great resource, so make sure you have our number saved (1-877-MY-FL-CFO). Insurance experts are available to assist home and business owners with all insurance-related questions and concerns from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. ET Monday through Friday. Suspected fraud can be reported via the Helpline.

Hard work is being done by leaders at the local, state and federal level, and that hard work will continue until every Floridian has recovered from this storm. Be a scam smart customer, and remember, if you see something, say something, and report any suspected fraud.

Sincerely,

Jimmy Patronis
Jimmy Patronis
Chief Financial Officer
State of Florida


News of Interest

WTSP 10 Tampa: Florida officials warn about insurance fraud after Irma
People all over Florida are getting their power turned back on and picking up the pieces after Hurricane Irma. For some, that means making insurance claims for damage caused by the storm. Earlier this summer 10News reported on a crisis in the state caused by what is known as Assignment of Benefits fraud. Now, in the wake of Irma, insurers are worried about that crisis getting worse. Here’s how Assignment of Benefits (AOB) works: You need repairs done and you sign a deal that gives your contractor the right to bill your insurance company directly. It’s a tool that works great when used with health insurance, but with home insurance there are contractors and attorneys gaming the system with lawsuits and lawyer fees and consumers end up paying the cost through increased premiums. State insurance regulators worry that Irma will open the door to more AOB fraud and they’re warning anyone with damage to be on the lookout. "If an offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is and could be fraud,”" said state Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis. "Opportunistic scammers may attempt to defraud Floridians following Hurricane Irma, and I encourage all Floridians to be vigilant in guarding against fraud. Consumers should report suspicious activity ASAP by calling 1-877-693-5236."

Sun Sentinel: Disaster recovery centers opening in areas hardest hit by Hurricane Irma
Insurance villages and disaster recovery centers are being opened in areas hardest hit by Hurricane Irma. State-run Citizens Property Insurance Corp. has opened three catastrophe response centers for its customers and the state Department of Financial Services plans to open disaster recovery centers in St. Augustine, Jacksonville, Naples and Lehigh Acres for one day next week, that department announced. The state Department of Financial Services’ centers will each be open for a single day next week. Department officials will be on hand to answer insurance related questions while officials from several insurance companies will be available to help policy holders file claims. As with the Citizens centers, consumers are encouraged to bring copies of insurance policies with them. To find out which insurance companies are participating in the various villages, go to the department’s website: www.myfloridacfo.com.

News 4 JAX: FEMA, others help Jacksonville hurricane victims
Hundreds of Jacksonville residents who suffered damage from Hurricane Irma streamed into the Prime Osborn Convention Center on Tuesday to meet with staff from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and other relief and community organizations and private insurers. The Recovery Assistance Center hosted by Sen. Marco Rubio's staff is in a different county each day, working its way across each part of the state touched by last week's hurricane. Most who turned out are in need of immediate federal assistance and are unclear of what qualifies and what does not. "We woke up to water over our waist," Kim Pitts said. "We lost everything. A stranger put us up in a room until today and we had to check out."

Ft. Myers News-Press: Hurricane Irma aftermath information to be available at Naples, Fort Myers
Insurance companies, as well as state, local and federal agencies, will be at locations in Naples and Fort Myers this week to answer questions about relief efforts, insurance, repairs and related concerns in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma. The comprehensive disaster recovery centers and insurance villages will be open in Naples from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Wednesday at New Hope Ministries Event Center, 7675 Davis Blvd., and in Fort Myers from, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Thursday at Lee County Veterans Park Recreation Center, 55 Homestead Road South in Lehigh Acres. The centers are being sponsored by Jimmy Patronis, Chief Financial Officer of Florida, in partnership with Senator Marco Rubio. Local, state and federal partners will be in attendance to offer Floridians a wide array of relief assistance in one centralized location. Insurance experts will be on hand to answer insurance-related questions and concerns.

ABC 27 WTXL Tallahassee: Gov. Scott institutes new rules following Irma deaths
Governor Rick Scott has taken emergency actions requiring the immediate installation of life-safety features in assisted living facilities and nursing homes. This comes after eight people died at a rehabilitation center in Broward County after losing power during Hurricane Irma. Governor Scott’s emergency rules include a mandatory inspection of all newly-installed generators at assisted living facilities and nursing homes. In response to Governor Scott’s emergency actions, CFO and State Fire Marshal Jimmy Patronis today issued a statement, in part saying, “Governor Scott's emergency rules demanding generators in nursing homes and assisted living facilities will help protect our vulnerable population during emergencies and natural disasters. Our office is working quickly to develop a thorough statewide inspection plan, as the emergency rules require." Additional details regarding the State Fire Marshal’s inspection plan are expected to be released in the coming days.

Florida Trend: Federal Reemployment Assistance Available for Additional Counties
Disaster Unemployment Assistance (DUA) is available to Florida businesses and residents whose employment or self-employment was lost or interrupted as a result of Hurricane Irma. President Donald J. Trump officially granted a major disaster declaration request. The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity is currently accepting applications for DUA from residents and businesses in Alachua, Baker, Bradford, Brevard, Broward, Charlotte, Citrus, Clay, Collier, Columbia, DeSoto, Duval, Flagler, Gilchrist, Glades, Hardee, Hendry, Hernando, Highlands, Hillsborough, Indian River, Lake, Lee, Levy, Manatee, Marion, Martin, Miami-Dade, Monroe, Nassau, Orange, Okeechobee, Osceola, Palm Beach, Pasco, Pinellas, Polk, Putnam, Sarasota, Seminole, St. Johns, St. Lucie, Sumter, Suwannee, Union and Volusia counties. Individuals affected in these designated-disaster areas must file DUA applications by October 16, 2017.

Sun Sentinel: Hurricane Irma: Florida economy expected to bounce back quickly
Floridians from Jacksonville to Orlando to the Keys are still reeling from Hurricane Irma’s impact, but the state’s economy should rebound fairly quickly, one economist says, as soon as the lights come back on. "The short-run things that are important is getting power back on throughout the state and addressing infrastructure damage that has occurred," said University of Central Florida economics professor Sean Snaith. "Depending on what the extent of that is around the state that’ll determine how long of a recuperation period we have to go through." The historic storm left millions of people without electricity. Flood damage affected homes in nearly every corner of the state, and many buildings in the Keys were destroyed.

CFO and State Fire Marshal Jimmy Patronis Offers Full Support to Ensure the Life Safety of Floridians

On Saturday, Governor Rick Scott took emergency actions requiring the immediate installation of life-safety features in assisted living facilities and nursing homes following eight deaths at the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills in Broward County. Governor Scott’s emergency rules include a mandatory inspection of all newly-installed generators at assisted living facilities and nursing homes to be completed by the Florida State Fire Marshal’s Office. In response to Governor Scott’s emergency actions, CFO and State Fire Marshal Jimmy Patronis issued the following statement:

CFO Patronis said, "First and foremost, my heartfelt sympathies go out to the families of those who died due to this entirely avoidable tragedy. While there’s nothing that can undo this disgraceful disaster, steps can and should be taken to ensure that it never happens again. Governor Scott's emergency rules demanding generators in nursing homes and assisted living facilities will help protect our vulnerable population during emergencies and natural disasters.

"Our office is working quickly to develop a thorough statewide inspection plan, as the emergency rules require. We look forward to providing all parties with the assistance and resources needed to ensure the safety of all Floridians, and to engaging in discussions about long-term solutions during the upcoming legislative session."

Additional details regarding the State Fire Marshal’s inspection plan will be released in the coming days.

The emergency rules can be viewed below:
Florida Agency for Health Care Administration
Florida Department of Elder Affairs

CFO Patronis Tours Hurricane Irma Damage in the Florida Keys While Spreading Post-Storm Recovery and Insurance Resources

On Sunday, CFO and State Fire Marshal Jimmy Patronis toured the impacts of Hurricane Irma in the Florida Keys while joining first responders and community members in their efforts to provide food, water and supplies to local residents. Click on the image below for larger pictures.

CFO Patronis helping relief efforts in Key West after Irma


CFO Patronis offered insurance resources to residents impacted by the storm as residents made their way back to their homes. Any Floridian who needs assistance with insurance-related issues after Hurricane Irma is encouraged to call the Insurance Consumer Helpline at 1-877-MY-FL-CFO (1-877-693-5236). Floridians can also find Hurricane Irma insurance resources on www.myfloridacfo.com.

Florida Economic Briefs

Unemployment rate in Florida continues to decline
The unemployment rate continued its downward trend in Florida. The latest data shows that the rate dropped from 4.1 percent in July to 4.0 percent in August. This is 0.4 percent below the current national rate, and 0.9 percent below Florida’s unemployment rate at this time last year.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Foreclosures tick up in August
The number of new foreclosure filings in Florida increased in August. The number of pre-foreclosure filings increased by 21.1 percent and the number of properties becoming bank-owned increased by 32.1 percent as compared to July. These numbers are still well below what they were last year.
Source: RealtyTrac