CFO Alex Sink's Consumer eViews NewsletterFLORIDA CHIEF FINANCIAL OFFICER
ALEX SINK'S NEWSLETTER

Volume 6 Number 28 July 10, 2009

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Dear Floridian:

This week, I had the opportunity to meet with a variety of groups who represent a bright future for our state.

On Wednesday, I addressed Girls State, a group of young women who came together in Tallahassee to learn first-hand about state government. I also had the opportunity to meet with the class of 2009 A.L.Ex (Academy of Leadership Excellence) students to thank them for their excellent work in our Department. These are top students from FAMU and FSU who are gaining real-world skills and professional development here at DFS. And today, I visited Enterprise Florida to hear from their executives about their efforts to support job growth.

Despite the challenges our state faces right now, the young leaders and innovators I met with this week should give all of us hope for the promise of things to come.

Sincerely,

Alex


Alex Sink
Chief Financial Officer
State of Florida


CFO Sink addresses Florida Girls State

On Wednesday, CFO Sink met with Florida Girls State, a group of young women who traveled to Tallahassee to learn about state government. Girls State is a program through the American Legion Auxiliary that provides citizenship training for girls in high school; each summer, young women are offered the opportunity to spend an intensive week of studying and working together as self-governing citizens in every state.

CFO Sink met with the Girls State Cabinet members, and also spoke to the group in the House chambers. In her remarks, she emphasized the need for more young women to take active leadership roles in their communities and colleges, so that eventually more women are represented in public office. She also answered questions about Florida’s economy and explained some of her duties as CFO. 


DFS Davis Productivity Awards recipients recognized by CFO Sink

CFO Sink joined a group of nearly 100 Department of Financial Services employees on Thursday to present them with Prudential-Davis Productivity Award Certificates of Commendation. The Prudential-Davis Productivity Awards are presented annually to state employees who exceed performance expectations in ways that improve state functions and save money for Florida taxpayers.

“Our Department’s winners have shown a dedication to the people of Florida by going above and beyond to ensure the most efficient and productive use of taxpayer dollars,” said CFO Sink. “I am very proud to congratulate all of the Department of Financial Services recipients on their Davis Productivity Awards and I thank them for their innovations and achievements.”

DFS employees received 39 recognitions this year, including 5 cash awards, 16 plaque awards, and 16 certificates of commendation. Many different areas of work done by the Department of Financial Services were recognized, including efforts to protect seniors from financial fraud, insurance fraud investigations and unclaimed property notification efforts. Cost-cutting efficiencies like reduced printing expenditures and converting procedures from paper to electronic forms were also highlighted.

The Prudential-Davis Productivity Awards program is a major government improvement initiative co-sponsored by Florida Tax Watch, The Florida Council of 100 and the State of Florida. This year’s awards competition attracted 568 nominations for innovations and productivity improvements worth $342 million in cost savings, cost avoidances and increased revenue for state government.


CFO Sink congratulates A.L.Ex. -- Academy of Leadership and Excellence Class of 2009

Florida CFO Alex Sink this week congratulated the 2009 intern class participating in her Academy of Leadership and Excellence Program (A.L.Ex.) within the Department of Financial Services.

“I commend the A.L.Ex. class of 2009 for their academic achievement and their commitment to public service,” said CFO Alex Sink, who oversees the Department of Financial Services. “As a state, we need to do everything we can to encourage and mentor our young people, providing a pathway for public service and a lifetime of success.”

The Academy of Leadership and Excellence program provides real-world work experience, professional development, and career opportunities in public service for Florida’s best and brightest university students. Students receive substantive and challenging work assignments from their assigned mentor and have their work evaluated on a professional level. Students also work together with their mentors to develop strong networking skills.

“The A.L.Ex. Program has given me the opportunity to experience real life scenarios of the workforce,” said FAMU student Whittney Mitchell. “Only two months into the program, I have been able to obtain and complete tasks that were both challenging and informative as well as improve my workplace communication skills.”

The 2009 class of A.L.Ex. students consists of 15 students from FSU and FAMU within many divisions of the Department of Financial Services. The positions are paid and each student works at least 20 hours per week. The program is open to FSU and FAMU junior, senior and graduate students who must maintain a 3.0 GPA.

FLORIDA A&M UNIVERSITY

Rodney Adair, Jr., Chicago, IL, Whitney M. Young Magnet H.S. in Chicago, Undergraduate Degree: B.S in Business Administration; Concentration in Marketing, Graduate Major: Accounting

Ebony L. Eggleston, Minnetonka, Minnesota, Wayzata Senior High in Plymouth, Minnesota, Undergraduate Degree: B.S in Bio-Chemistry, Graduate Major: Masters of Applied Social Science/ Public Administration

La Shaveria "Shava" Keeton, Perry, FL, Taylor County High School in Perry, Florida, MBA: Concentration in Marketing

Ricardo Lewis, Tallahassee, Florida, Shanks High School, Quincy, Florida, Undergraduate Degree: B.S in Print Journalism, Graduate Major: Masters of Applied Social Science/ Political Science

Whittney Mitchell, Atlanta, Georgia, Henry Grady High Scbool, Atlanta, Georgia, Undergraduate Degree: B.S in Broadcast Journalism, Graduate Major: Masters of Applied Social Science/ Public Administration

LaToya Sheals, Lakeland, FL, Lakeland High School in Lakeland, Undergraduate Degree: B.S in Criminal Justice, Graduate Major: Masters of Applied Social Science/ Public Administration

Britney Smith, Selma, Alabama, Selma High School, Selma Alabama, MBA: Concentration in Marketing

FLORIDA STATE UNIVERSITY

Alexander Conrad, Dallas, Texas, Grafton Memorial Senior High School in Grafton, Undergraduate Major: Accounting and Finance

Savannah M. Brooks, Fayetteville, Ga, Our Lady Of Mercy Catholic High School In Fairburn, Ga, Undergraduate Degree: B.S. Accounting and Finance

Sam B. Gibbons, Tampa, Florida, H. B. Plant High School in Tampa, Florida, Undergraduate Major: Economics and Political Science

Brent Hileman, Oldsmar, Florida, Palm Harbor High School in Palm Harbor, Undergraduate Major: Finance and Risk Management/Insurance

Trent Kilpatrick, Boynton Beach, FL, St. Andrew's High School in Boca Raton, FL, Undergraduate Degree: B.S in Finance & Applied Economics Mathematics

Hellen Osorio, Sarasota, FL, Riverview High School (Sarasota) in Sarasota, Undergraduate Major: Finance and Economics

Michael M. Rivas, Miami, FL, Miami Sunset Senior High School in Miami, FL, Undergraduate Degree: B.S in Risk Management/Insurance

Michael J. Rodriguez, Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, Allen D. Nease High School in Ponte Vedra, Graduate Degree: Master's Public Administration, Specialization in Financial Management and Budgeting


Enterprise Florida execs talk job growth, development with CFO Sink

CFO Sink was at the Enterprise Florida Headquarters in Orlando on Friday to meet with Enterprise Florida Executives about their efforts to support job growth and development in our state.

Enterprise Florida Executives shared with CFO Sink some of their most recent initiatives to bring new and better jobs to Florida and their shift to focus on supporting and growing Florida’s small business community. CFO Sink also asked about the workshops Enterprise Florida is holding across the state this summer in order to update their strategic plan for Florida’s economic growth -- the Roadmap to Florida’s Future.

Enterprise Florida Inc. (EFI) is a public-private partnership serving as Florida’s primary organization devoted to statewide economic development. EFI's mission is to diversify Florida's economy and create better-paying jobs for its citizens by supporting, attracting and helping to create businesses in innovative, high-growth industries.


CFO Sink brings together housing stakeholders seeking effective help for Florida's first-time homebuyers

On Tuesday, CFO Sink brought together stakeholders involved with the Florida Homebuyer Opportunity Program to urge prompt and effective implementation of the first time homebuyer credit for Floridians. The meeting, initiated and led by CFO Sink, included representatives from The Florida Housing Finance Corporation, Florida Association of Realtors, Florida League of Cities, and the Florida Banker’s Association.

“We’re all optimistic that this program will assist Floridians in achieving the dream of home ownership in our state and help Florida as our state begins to turn around the housing crisis,” said CFO Sink. “But to make sure that the program is running as efficiently and effectively as possible, we need everyone talking with each other and working off the same playbook.”

The Florida Homebuyer Opportunity Program was created during the 2009 legislative session to provide $30 million in financial assistance to first time homebuyers eligible for the federal first time homebuyer tax credit through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Eligible Floridians receive up to $8,000 in assistance, to be paid back upon receipt of his or her federal tax refund. The program is administered through the State Housing Initiatives Partnership (SHIP) program, with offices located in all 67 counties and 53 Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) entitlement cities.


Foreclosure help workshop to be held July 25 in Naples

Florida’s Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink is inviting the public to participate in Florida Housing Help, a community outreach program designed to educate and assist families facing foreclosure.

The program is sponsored by the Financial Action Team, the Collier County State Legislative Delegation and the Department of Financial Services.

It’s 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. July 25 at Edison State College, Collier County Campus, 7007 Lely Cultural Parkway, Naples.

The workshop will include opportunities to meet with HUD-certified housing counselors, local housing authorities, legal assistance, the Florida Career and Service Center and the Florida Gulf Coast University Small Business Development Center.

Pre-registration is recommended by calling 877-MY-FL-CFO (693-5236).


Hurricane Checklist: Mobile Home Mitigation

Mobile homes are vulnerable to disasters, so securing your home from the bottom up can greatly increase your chances of mitigating or protecting it from damage. Take time now to strengthen any weak areas. Hurricane damage and destruction can be caused by various structural problems, but here are a few tips to consider:

For more information on specific retrofitting measures/products, visit http://www.myfloridacfo.com/Consumers/understandCoverage.htm.

Find out when a Hurricane Preparedness Event will be in your area on our calendar linked here. Check back with us next week for more ideas.


Just out of college? Don't neglect your health insurance

As health insurance in the U.S. is typically employer-provided, getting a job is often the first time a young person begins to think about this matter. While you are young and healthy, you might actually feel that you don’t need health insurance. In fact, you might be tempted to do without coverage because you are strapped for cash and want to avoid paying the premiums. The National Association of Insurance Commissioners recently surveyed U.S. consumers and nearly a fifth of young singles indicated they would decline employer health insurance to save money.

However, forgoing health insurance is a dangerous decision. Accidents and unforeseen illnesses can be financially devastating for you and your family. Weigh carefully the repercussions of not being covered, and seriously consider buying health insurance suited to your needs.

Know your family’s health history. If you are at high risk for developing a medical condition – such as diabetes – later in life, think carefully before saying no to your employers’ health policy, even if it means paying higher premiums while you are young and healthy.

Understand that if you have been covered under your parents’ health insurance policy while you were in college or by a plan offered through your college, often this coverage ceases when you graduate. Additionally, many companies have employee probation periods before health coverage goes into effect. For these periods of no coverage, you should check to see whether you can extend your parents’ coverage short-term under COBRA. Some colleges also offer graduates interim coverage. As an alternative, talk to an insurance agent about purchasing catastrophic health coverage as a short-term measure.

As you sort through job prospects, don’t make the salary your sole priority. Health coverage is perhaps the most important job-related benefit you can receive; so study the health plans that prospective employers provide. Many companies have coverage through an HMO or a managed-care plan, which means that many decisions – including which physicians are included in the network – are made by the healthcare provider. Others have more flexible plans that allow their participants to choose their physicians. In either case, the employee is responsible for co-payments which help keep costs under control.

Here are some ways that you can control your health insurance costs or cover an interim period before or between jobs when you are not under an employer’s plan.

If you feel you can’t afford regular health insurance, a more affordable option you may want to consider is purchasing a high-deductible major medical policy that only covers very serious or catastrophic health costs. It will offer lower premiums than regular health insurance policies and help you cover bills for “major” medical events, like surgery, hospitalization or emergency room care. But it will typically not cover routine doctor visits or check-ups.

If you are convinced that you are generally healthy and have a healthy lifestyle and definitely do not want to pay (or can’t afford to pay) high insurance premiums, consider a Health Savings Account. HSAs can be set up individually or, increasingly, as an option through employers. They allow you to accumulate and spend pre-tax money for health expenses via an account that you own and can take with you should you change jobs. If you are in a physically demanding job, you might want to consider purchasing disability insurance, as research shows that young people are four times more likely to be disabled than die at an early age. As an option, many employers offer disability coverage, which provides lost income in the event that you are injured and unable to work. If the injury is work-related, then workers' compensation coverage applies. If you decide to purchase disability insurance, try to get a non-cancelable, guaranteed renewable policy. That means it can never be canceled and it's good until age 65. Make sure you review your disability policy on an annual basis to ensure any disability payments continue to keep pace with your increase in earnings.


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!

MyFamilyCFO@MyFloridaCFO.com

Idea: How to find the best answer to a health question

Your health is an asset to be protected and nurtured. Awareness of a health problem and the ways to deal with it are gained through experience and research.

How do you get an answer to a health question? Asking your doctor or nurse-practitioner directly would be the preferred method, but is not the most practical way to get an answer. Family and friends will be glad to give advice. More often these days the Internet is the preferred reference book.

A search will bring a choice of sites with many answers but sifting through for non-commercial, scientific truth is often difficult.

Visiting a specific Web site with a solid reputation may be a better approach for better answers.

Information from these Web sites recommended by the Medical Library Association may broaden your health perspectives and give you a better ability to make informed healthcare decisions.

For Health Consumers: The Top Ten Most Useful Websites

The Medical Library Association finds the following web sites particularly useful (sites are listed in alphabetical, NOT ranked, order):

Cancer.gov NCI home page has links to specific cancers (listed A to Z), drug and cancer term dictionaries, cancer statistics and a toll-free help line.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Emphasizes public health and safety, including links to infectious diseases, travelers' health, vaccines/immunizations, environmental health and
emergency preparedness

familydoctor.org Sponsored by the American Academy of Family Physicians, this site is mostly for patients. Links to conditions and symptoms - in A-to-Z format - afford easy access to comprehensive health information.

healthfinder® A site mostly for patients, this one is from the Office of Disease Prevention (HHS).

HIV InSite Provides comprehensive, up to date information on HIV/AIDS. Separate links cover current news/research, policy analysis and data by country and region.

Kidshealth® Free of "doctor speak," this well-organized site has separate sections for parents, kids and teens. Sponsored by the Nemours Foundation for Children's Health Media

Mayo Clinic Offers the usual comprehensive listing of diseases, symptoms, and drugs in A-to-Z format as well as a free Mayo Clinic E-newsletter.

MEDEM: an information partnership of medical societies An interactive suite of online communication services from a consortium of medical organizations like the AMA and several specialty societies

MedlinePlus (English | Spanish) From the National Library of Medicine (NLM), the world's largest medical library, in cooperation with the NIH.

NOAH: New York Online Access to Health A unique consumer site organized by librarians and health professionals in the N.Y. area.


SAVING ENERGY, SAVING MONEY
Energy 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.

Don’t Try to Bail out the Titanic with a Teaspoon

Determine priorities for household energy conservation

With all the articles, books and media attention focused on lowering our energy consumption, it is easy to get caught up with small increments of energy savings, which sometimes dwarf some of the more important choices. For example, turning off your cell phone charger is admirable, but does not contribute significantly to offsetting one’s energy footprint. It is important to recognize the major sources of America’s carbon dioxide emissions: approximately one third is caused by transportation and another third from electricity. So, focusing on those two issues is critical for any household who hopes to lower its energy usage.

Transportation is akin to the elephant in the living room. Many of us assume that we are relegated to a lifetime of long commutes, traffic congestion, and high gasoline costs. But think again – are there possible public transport options in your neighborhood? What about car-pooling? Or would your boss consider allowing you to work at home for one day per week? If thinking about purchasing a new car, look carefully at hybrids which are cheaper in the long term and kinder to your children’s quality of life. If you plan to move, be sure to consider your commuting distance as a critical factor in selection of a new home. More time, energy, expense, and emotion are allocated to commuting than almost any other household activity – minimizing your commute will invariably increase quality of life.

Electricity is the other major factor comprising American carbon dioxide emissions, so create a family plan for reduction of all unnecessary power. Is there a second refrigerator in the garage that is not fully utilized and can be sold or donated to charity? Are there lights left constantly on, even when you sleep? Can insulation of windows or walls lower your air-conditioning bills? Be sure to replace aging appliances with energy-star rated machines. Use power strips to turn off groups of appliances, especially offices with computers and printers. Set an egg timer when you shower, to reduce your hot water bills. And be romantic – candle-light dinners not only save electricity but also enhance your quality of life!