Volume 6  Number 3 January 16, 2009

Next week, our country will join together to celebrate two remarkable journeys in our nation’s history.

On Monday, January 19th, we celebrate civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. As Coretta Scott King once proudly said, Martin Luther King Day commemorates the timeless values Dr. King taught us through his examples -- the values of courage, truth, justice, compassion, dignity, humility and service that so radiantly defined his character and empowered his leadership.

And on Tuesday, January 20th, Barack Obama will be sworn-in as the 44th President of the United States of America.

Nearly half a century has passed since Dr. King delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech, but as we watch part of his vision realized, we must also remember the many Floridians and Americans who have sacrificed their lives to advance civil rights in our country. If you are looking for a way to give back to your community on Monday, or any other day, visit www.usaservice.org.

Statement by CFO Sink on Special Session

Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink offered the following statement:

“Today’s budget bridges our state’s short-term budget shortfalls, but still fails to provide the type of long-term, fiscally-responsible approach that the people of Florida need from state government. I am encouraged that this debate will continue during regular session, and the Florida Legislature will identify more ways to reduce expenditures and make government more efficient. Our goal should be a state budget with a long-term, sustainable vision for Florida’s future.”

CFO Alex Sink and President Holden at Polk Community CollegeLeft: A conversation with CFO Alex Sink at Polk Community College-Winter Haven Campus, shown with Dr. Eileen Holden, President. The audience comprised 100 Polk County School Board Members and Polk Community College educators. During this open forum event, the audiences’ primary interests were topics concerning the 2009 state budget and the fallout pertaining to education and economic development.

CFO Sink speaks to the Polk County Development Council

CFO Sink addresses the Central Florida Development Council of Polk county

Right: In a presentation before the Central Florida Development Council, Inc,. of Polk County, Florida, CFO Sink advised 60 community leaders and the Polk County Sheriffs Office.

The Central Florida Development Council (CFDC), Polk County's economic catalyst for growth representing 17 municipalities, hosted CFO Alex Sink for a discussion on Florida's financial future. CFO Sink told the audience that she was encouraged by President-elect Obama's stimulus package and the emphasis on green technologies that bode well for Polk County and its multiple growing seasons. She suggested that agriculture would be on the rebound as the nation focuses more on biofuels. She also congratulated the group on their work for diversifying Polk County's economic base following the 1980's downturn in the phosphate industry, a major Polk County employer.

Since its inception, the CFDC has helped generate more than 19,000 new jobs in Polk County with $3.2 billion in capital investment. "Florida's current economic and budget issues are very similar to what Polk County experienced in the 1980s," said CFO Sink. "I encourage this group to engage collaboratively with your legislators to share your entrepreneurial ideas, experience and successes to help them make the best possible decisions for Florida's future."

Below: Presentation of a plaque of appreciation to CFO Sink by the Central Florida Development Council.

Central Florida Development Council presents plaque to CFO Sink

Florida Department of Financial Services Division of Insurance fraud anticipates accredited status

Today, Colonel Vicki Cutcliffe announced that a team of assessors from the Commission for Florida Law Enforcement Accreditation (CFA) will arrive Wednesday, January 21, to examine all aspects of the Florida Department of Financial Services, Division of Insurance Fraud’s (FDFS/DIF) policies and procedures, management, operations, and support services, for the purpose of accreditation. The Division of Insurance Fraud has to comply with approximately 260 standards in order to receive accredited status.

“Accreditation is a highly prized recognition of law enforcement professional excellence, and we are excited to achieve this noteworthy status,” said Colonel Cutcliffe.

The Accreditation Manager for FDFS/DIF is Captain Robert Brongel. The assessment team is comprised of law enforcement practitioners from Florida law enforcement agencies: these assessors will review written materials, interview individuals, and visit offices and other places where compliance can be witnessed. The CFA Assessment Team Leader is Ms. Dianne Hill of the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office; other team members include Lt. Sheila Rowden of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and Lt. Marc Hayes of the Santa Rosa County Sheriff’s Office.

Once the Commission’s assessors complete their review of the agency, they report back to the full Commission, which will then decide if the agency is to receive accredited status. The Division’s accreditation is for three years. Verification by the team that the Division of Insurance Fraud meets the Commission’s standards is part of a voluntary process to gain or maintain accreditation.

As part of the on-site assessment, agency members and the general public are invited to offer comments to the assessment team. Comments must be in writing and must address the agency’s ability to comply with CFA standards. A copy of the standards is available through Florida Department of Financial Services Public Information Officer in Tallahassee at 850/413-2890.

For more information regarding CFA or for persons wishing to offer written comments about the Division’s ability to meet the standards of accreditation, please write: CFA, 3504 Lake Lynda Drive, Suite 380, Orlando, Florida, 32817, or email to info@flaccreditation.org.

Florida Housing Help - Financial Action TeamHundreds in Cape Coral receive free advice at CFO Sink's Housing Help Workshop

Fort Myers-Cape Coral Foreclosure Rates Among the Highest in Nation

Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink announced today that over 350 homeowners in Cape Coral received free advice from lenders and counselors on how to avoid foreclosure at her first Florida Housing Help Workshop held Saturday. Many homeowners reported walking out with an agreement, or a tentative new financial agreement, with their lenders and feeling optimistic that they would be able to keep their homes. Others not yet in foreclosure received information about financing options and how to better manage their budgets.

“Thousands of families in southwest Florida need help,” Sink said. “These workshops are designed to get struggling homeowners in one-on-one meetings with lenders and counselors who could help them identify alternatives to foreclosure. The best way to begin turning our economy around is by making sure we are taking care of our families.”

Representatives from nine banks and lending institutions, a dozen HUD-certified housing counselors, and officials from local housing organizations were available at the workshop for one-on-one-meetings with homeowners. In addition, small business owners had the opportunity to meet with advisors from the Florida Gulf Coast University Small Business Development Center. Ten programs on subjects ranging from foreclosure law to real estate options were available throughout the day.

Sink oversees the Department of Financial Services, which assists consumers with insurance and financial matters and is available to conduct free outreach programs on a variety of subjects. The Florida Housing Help Workshop was produced by the department on behalf of the CFO’s Financial Action Team (FACT), a broad coalition of financial and housing stakeholders. Sink created the FACT Team last year to ensure Floridians get all of the benefits they may be entitled to under the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008.

For more information on the FACT Team or to schedule an outreach program, please visit http://www.MyFloridaCFO.com  or call 1-877-My-FL-CFO (1-877-693-5236).

CFO Sink launches Jacksonville University inaugural Thought Leaders series

CFO Alex Sink was the inaugural speaker in Jacksonville University Davis Leadership Center's Thought Leader Speaker Series, where she expressed ideas about how the state can get out of economic troubles.

CFO Sink said that the state needs to create a more diverse economy and that Jacksonville has a more balanced economy than other parts of the state, citing Jacksonville's insurance industry, port, health care facilities, and military installations. Health care is going to be an increasingly important part of the economy and Florida should pursue high-wage jobs in biomedical research through more graduates in the medical and engineering fields.

CFO Sink said the state should consider tax increases, fee hikes and spending cuts to balance the budget. and that Florida's cigarette tax is among the lowest in the nation.

Healthy Kids

Read the letter from CFO Sink and U.S. Congresswoman Kathy Castor to President-Elect Obama

CFO Sink & Congresswoman Castor advocate increased health insurance funding for Florida children

As Congress works on renewing the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink and U.S. Congresswoman Kathy Castor proposed a plan that will expand health insurance coverage to more of Florida’s and the nation’s children. The plan was outlined in a letter to President-Elect Obama (attached).

Under existing rules, states must provide a match to the federal dollars they receive for children’s health insurance. But as states grapple with multi-billion dollar budget deficits, state officials are having a hard time finding the funding to provide the match.

Sink and Castor are proposing a one-year waiver for states to provide the match if they meet both of the following criteria:

Florida meets both criteria, with roughly 800,000 uninsured children in the state, or 18.8 percent. That is the second-highest percentage of uninsured children in the country. Likewise, Florida’s projected budget gap for fiscal year 2010 is nearly $6 billion, or about 25 percent of the general fund. For every 29 cents Florida contributes to the insurance program, the federal government provides 71 cents.

As unemployment soars, forcing more people to turn toward food stamps, children, too, will bear the brunt of this economic crisis. Providing comprehensive and accessible health coverage for children is a priority and can go a long way toward helping families make ends meet.

And, a newly released Families USA report found that unemployment benefits don’t even cover the cost of COBRA.

CFO Sink is a strong advocate of Florida’s KidCare program, the state children’s health insurance program. During the first 20 months of her term, CFO Sink served as the Chair of the Healthy Kids Corporation, the Board that oversees the state’s Healthy Kids program. Healthy Kids allows eligible working families to purchase affordable health insurance for their children, emphasizing preventative care.

My Family CFO

Are you the chief financial officer of your family? Are you always looking out for the best deals, wise investments and smart moves for your family's financial security?

As your family's fiscal watch dog, keep an eye on this column for money-smart ideas from the Chief Financial Officer of Florida, Alex Sink.

If you have a creative way to be fiscally smart, share it with us for this column!


Idea: Useful job search strategies

In today's economy, searching for a job is a challenging process. Getting the job is another topic altogether, but knowing more about job search methods and application techniques can get you started. Here are a few resources to consider as outlined by the U.S. Department of Labor.

Personal contacts Many jobs are never advertised. People get them by talking to friends, family, neighbors, acquaintances, teachers, former coworkers, and others who know of an opening. Be sure to tell people that you are looking for a job because the people you know may be some of the most effective resources for your search. To develop new contacts, join student, community, or professional organizations.

School career planning and placement offices High school and college placement offices help their students and alumni find jobs. Some invite recruiters to use their facilities for interviews or career fairs. They also may have lists of open jobs. Most also offer career counseling, career testing, and job search advice. Some have career resource libraries; host workshops on job search strategy, resume writing, letter writing, and effective interviewing; critique drafts of resumes; conduct mock interviews; and sponsor job fairs.

Employers Directly contacting employers is one of the most successful means of job hunting. Through library and Internet research, develop a list of potential employers in your desired career field. Then call these employers and check their Web sites for job openings. Web sites and business directories can tell you how to apply for a position or whom to contact. Even if no open positions are posted, do not hesitate to contact the employer: You never know when a job might become available. Consider asking for an informational interview with people working in the career you want to learn more. Ask them how they got started, what they like and dislike about the work, what type of qualifications are necessary for the job, and what type of personality succeeds in that position. In addition to giving you career information, they may be able to put you in contact with other people who might hire you, and they can keep you in mind if a position opens up.

Classified ads/Internet resources The "Help Wanted" ads in newspapers and the Internet list numerous jobs, and many people find work by responding to these ads. The Internet includes many job hunting Web sites with job listings. Some job boards provide national listings of all kinds; others are local. Some relate to a specific type of work; others are general. To find good prospects, begin with an Internet search using keywords related to the job you want. Also look for the sites of related professional associations.

Agency for Workforce InnovationFlorida employment service offices

The Florida Agency for Workforce Innovation (AWI) helps job seekers find jobs and helps employers find qualified workers at no cost to either party. As Florida’s lead state workforce agency, AWI directly administers the state’s Labor Market Statistics program, Unemployment Compensation, Early Learning and various workforce development programs.

Workforce development policy and guidance are provided by Workforce Florida, Inc. Workforce Florida and the Agency for Workforce Innovation are partners in the Employ Florida network which includes 24 Regional Workforce Boards who deliver services through nearly 100 One-Stop Career Centers around the state.

Employ Florida Marketplace  Employ Florida Marketplace is a new state-of-the-art Web site for matching Florida’s job seekers and employers. Get help selecting a new career, finding a new job, and locating suitable education or training at https://www.employflorida.com/

People First
Search for government jobs throughout Florida.

Florida School System Jobs
Search for a job with Florida's school system

Saving energy, saving moneyEnergy tips for Florida families - these actions represent ways to behave kindly toward Mother Earth, AND save money as well as energy. These tips are presented by CFO Alex Sink's science advisor Meg Lowman, Ph.D., on the faculty at New College of Florida. Dr. Lowman has written numerous award-winning books and is an expert on the rainforests of the world.

Styrofoam versus paper cups

A popular opinion in America is that Styrofoam (polystyrene) cups are bad for the environment. Chemically speaking, polystyrene is almost inert and will not naturally biodegrade, which creates this negative opinion. Polystyrene is also visibly persistent along roadsides, and so makes an easy target for environmentalists. But in the race to abolish polystyrene from our daily lives, we neglect its environmental benefits over paper cups in some cases.

In a paper published in the peer-reviewed magazine, Science, Dr. Martin Hocking compared polystyrene versus paper:

Uses less raw materials, including 20 percent lower fossil fuels, no wood pulp and three percent of the chemicals utilized in paper

Cheaper and easier to manufacture, costing two and a half times less and producing more (one ton of polystyrene yields eight times more cups than one ton of paper)

Less space in landfills, with paper taking up approximately eight times more mass

Lower energy and water use, with paper cups requiring more steam, electricity and cooling water in their manufacturing process

Both can be relatively non-biodegradable – Styrofoam is not easily composted, but paper cups with a wax or plastic lining are equally slow.

Technology is moving ahead with more efficient ways to manufacture, to recycle and to minimize waste. But sometimes what seems obvious is not necessarily the most energy-efficient action. In the case of Styrofoam versus paper, the best solution is to re-use a ceramic mug!