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My Florida C F O

Dear Fellow Floridians:

As your State Fire Marshal, I lead a team of fire professionals who have dedicated their lives and careers to solving arson-related crimes. Like all first responders, they are the first to walk into treacherous situations and the last to leave. As they have dedicated their lives to protecting the health and safety of all Floridians, I feel it is important to do all that is possible in support of their long-term health and wellbeing.State Fire Marshal Badge

Like any savvy business owner knows, a healthy workforce is a productive workforce, and I’m proud to say that the Division of State Fire Marshal has joined dozens of fire departments across our state in providing routine health screenings for our fire service professionals.

As February is Cancer Prevention Month, there’s no better time to tell you about this program. The Division has set aside funding to provide access to hazmat physicals, which are specially designed to monitor the types of cancers studies have shown occur at a higher rate among fire service professionals. Routine exposure to hazardous materials and contaminants found on fire scenes is known to result in higher rates of cancer, specifically of the bladder and lung, according to the CDC. However, through the power of early detection, these screenings can save lives, and I am proud we make screenings available to this most deserving group of individuals in this way.

As part of these routine screenings, team members will undergo a series of health exams, including annual blood work and a urinalysis, along with a chest x-ray and heavy metal testing, which seek to identify cancer-contributing carcinogens. Additionally, a stress test is completed to monitor overall health, and a head-to-toe skin cancer check is performed. Peace of mind is priceless, and to be empowered with knowledge about one’s health is to have power over one’s health choices.

For all that these brave men and women do to serve your family and mine, I am honored to help ensure that they will have the opportunity to remain as healthy and as happy as possible for many years to come.

Even if you’re not a fire service professional, I encourage you to take advantage of available health screenings so you, too, can remain as healthy as possible.

Jeff
Jeff Atwater
Chief Financial Officer
State of Florida

News of Interest

Florida Today: Your insurer is richer, are you?

WFLA Tampa Bay: Free money waits for Tampa Bay area residents

Sarasota Herald-Tribune: 360,000 victims of hacking at Anthem are in Florida

CBS 12: Cops: Sam the Kitchen Man stole thousands from victims

NBC 6 South Florida: Record 97 million tourists visited Florida in 2014

Sarasota Herald-Tribune: High hopes for spring training

Tampa Bay Times: Unions ask Tampa to help grow skilled-trade apprenticeships

The Street: A strong dollar could actually be good for the U.S. economy

February is Black History Month

Each week this month, we are featuring one prominent African-American leader and highlighting his or her contributions to our country.

Sarah Breedlove (1867–1919) Madame C.J. Walker Sarah Breedlove

Sarah Breedlove, better known as Madam C.J. Walker, was one of America’s first female self-made millionaires. Madam Walker took a personal ailment - a scalp condition which caused hair loss - and built a hair care industry for African-American women from it. Madam Walker began working for another prominent black business woman, Annie Turnbo Malone, but branched off from Mrs. Malone to start the Madam C.J. Walker line, resulting in her success and good fortune, which she used to found philanthropies, fund educational scholarships, assist the elderly, and help make a better life for African-Americans.

Multi-Agency Unlicensed Contractor Sting Nets 11 Arrests

The Florida Department of Financial Services last week announced the arrests of 11 individuals in Manatee County for unlicensed contracting and engaging in construction work without workers’ compensation insurance. The Division of Insurance Fraud, in partnership with the Department of Business & Professional Regulation, the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office, HolmesWorkers' Compensation Slide Police Department and Manatee County Code Enforcement, executed the sting over a three-day period, calling for contractors to perform services at an uninhabited home in Manatee County.

If convicted, the arrested individuals face up to five years in prison for each workers’ compensation charge and an additional year for a first-time unlicensed contractor charge or five years for repeat offenders.

Workers’ compensation fraud is one of many types of insurance fraud. Anyone with information about suspected insurance fraud is asked to call 1-800-378-0445. Citizens who provide tips can remain anonymous. The Department of Financial Services has awarded nearly $350,000 to nearly 60 citizens as part of its Anti-Fraud Reward Program. The program rewards individuals up to $25,000 for information that directly leads to an arrest and conviction in an insurance fraud scheme.

Florida law sets specific rules and guidelines for obtaining professional licensure, and the people who have met these requirements are held to professional standards. Consumers can verify professional licenses online at www.myfloridalicense.com. Additionally, Floridians should report any suspected unlicensed activity by emailing ULA@myfloridalicense.com, calling the Unlicensed Activity Hotline at 1-866-532-1440 or by downloading the DBPR Mobile app.

Stop Adult Financial Exploitation

Operation S.A.F.E.Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater invites you to participate in Operation S.A.F.E., Be Scam Smart, a free workshop for seniors, their families, and caregivers.

The Florida Department of Financial Services launched Operation S.A.F.E. (Stop Adult Financial Exploitation) as part of CFO Atwater’s On Guard for Seniors initiative. Be Scam Smart workshops help inform, empower, and protect Florida’s seniors from financial scams and fraud. If you want to make sure your savings are protected, register for this workshop and get a better understanding of how scam artists and scams work.

Be Scam Smart by learning more about:

  • The Psychology of a Scam
  • How to Spot Fraudulent Behavior
  • Common Scams that Target Seniors
  • How to Fight Identity Theft
  • Resources to Keep You Safe

Find out more about us in the About Us section or Register for an upcoming event, including the workshops in West Palm Beach and Miami Gardens.

  • Tuesday, March 3rd - West Palm Beach
    10:30 a.m. - 11:30 a.m.
    1700 Golden Lakes Blvd., West Palm Beach, FL 33411
  • Wednesday, March 4th - Miami Gardens
    10:00 a.m. - 11:30 a.m.
    St. Thomas University School of Law Convocation Hall
    16401 NW 37th Ave., Miami Gardens, Florida 33054

Florida Economic Briefs

Florida home sales increase 15 percent in fourth quarter
Florida home sales have increased over the year, up 15 percent in the fourth quarter of 2014. The average sale price also increased over the year, up 5.2 percent from $246,191 in the fourth quarter of 2013 to $259,101 in the fourth quarter of 2014.
Source: Florida Realtors

Record number of tourists visited Florida in 2014
More than 97 million tourists visited Florida last year, which is 3 million more than in 2013 (94 million). According to Visit Florida, an estimated 11.5 million tourists were from overseas and 3.8 million were from Canada. The increase in tourism is viewed as a response to the nation’s economic recovery, and marks the fourth year in a row of record tourism in Florida.
Source: Visit Florida

Outlook on 2015

Fostering Financial ProsperityThis issue of Florida’s Bottom Line highlights opportunities that lie ahead of us in the coming year, as well as issues from 2014. It includes economic forecasts and expert analysis on Florida from leading economists, and insightful outlooks on key industries from the industry leaders themselves, including this one from Doug Wheeler.

Doug Wheeler, President & CEO Florida Ports Council: Florida’s seaports play a critical role in the lives of our citizens and are a key driver of the economy. They support more than 680,000 direct and indirect jobs, and contribute $96 billion in economic value to Florida through maritime activities. However, a re-alignment of global trade routes is underway, and Florida's ports are focused on investing in the infrastructure needed to remain competitive, with the goal of becoming a global trade hub. In 2015, we hope to advance that goal by investing in projects that capture a larger share of containerized imports serving Florida, and that attract manufacturing and other industries to Florida. Read more.