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Statement from Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater Regarding the Unanimous Passage of Reforms to Aid Holocaust Survivors

4/26/2013

Contact: Anna Alexopoulos
(850) 413-2842
TALLAHASSEE— Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater today released the following statement regarding the passage of Senate Bill 936 and House Bill 913 today, sponsored by Senator Lee (R-Brandon) and Representative Bileca (R-Miami) and prime co-sponsor Representative Rader (D-Delray Beach). This bill allows the Department of Financial Services to seek restitution for Nazi-confiscated bank accounts, art and property; provide education to Holocaust survivors as to the existence of the restitution program; and to assist survivors in receiving needed health benefits.
 
“When I first took office, I was astonished to learn that financial institutions were assessing a wire transfer fee on Holocaust survivors’ reparation payments from the German government. The fee, essentially a 10 percent tax, was a significant financial burden considering that the vast majority of the victims are elderly and rely on these payments. To remedy this, my office partnered with 23 financial institutions in Florida to waive the wire transfer tax on these payments.
 
“This year, we have taken our efforts to help survivors and their families a step further and advocated for the authority to seek restitution from Nazi-confiscated accounts and property.  I thank Sen. Lee, Rep. Bileca and Rep. Rader for their leadership on this issue and for passing this legislation.
 
“Although, nothing we do will ever fully repay the suffering these survivors experienced, passing this bill is a powerful reflection of the Legislature’s desire to contribute to the well-being of this important group of Floridians.”
 
Sen. Lee, the Senate sponsor, offered the following statement in support:
 
“I applaud CFO Atwater for his continued support of Holocaust victims and allowing me to sponsor such important legislation.”
Rep. Bileca, the House sponsor, offered the following statement in support:
 
“Although we can never fully comprehend the inhumanity that our Holocaust survivors experienced, I am proud that our Legislature, through CFO Atwater’s leadership, is providing our CFO with the increased ability to deliver justice for our survivors.”
 
Rep. Rader, the House prime co-sponsor, offered the following statement in support:
 
"Today, I am proud to be a part of a Legislature that unanimously recognized the need, and took action to increase assistance available to Florida's Holocaust survivors."
 
Jacob Solomon, President & CEO Greater Miami Jewish Federation, offered the following statement in support:
“The Greater Miami Jewish Federation and the Florida Association of Jewish Federations applaud the leadership of CFO Atwater and the Legislature on the passage of the Holocaust Victims Assistance Act of 2013.  This Bill, by expanding assistance to Holocaust survivors seeking restitution of Nazi-confiscated bank accounts, art, and other property and assets will help ensure that the unique needs of our most vulnerable and aging population are met. We hope it will bring a measure of dignity and improve the quality of life for these seniors.  The unanimous support for this legislation in the House and Senate is truly heartwarming for our survivors, their families and all Floridians.”
 
Elizabeth Gelman, Executive Director for the Florida Holocaust Museum, offered the following statement in support:
 
“The Florida Holocaust Museum recognizes and commends CFO Atwater’s leadership and advocacy for the improvement of the quality of life of the Holocaust survivors residing in the state of Florida. Florida remains a national leader in supporting Holocaust education and survivor rights.”
 
Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, a statewide elected official and officer of the Florida Cabinet, oversees the Department of Financial Services.  CFO Atwater’s priorities include fighting financial fraud, abuse and waste in government; reducing government spending and regulatory burdens that chase away capital and ensuring transparency and accountability in spending.