My Florida C F O

Dear Fellow Floridians:

Mother Nature is one of earth’s most unpredictable forces. From thunder and lightning to floods and falling hail, the list of potentially dangerous weather scenarios is long. Floridians have grown familiar with the threat of hurricane Severe Weather Awareness Weekseason, but it’s important to remember that dangers of severe weather extend far beyond June to November.

This week is Severe Weather Awareness Week, and it’s an important time to review your hazardous weather plans. As this winter season has made clear—through countless rounds of torrential downfalls and damaging tornadoes across our state—we must never let our guard down and we must always be prepared.

Just this week there was damage in the Panhandle and other parts of the state, and it comes less than two weeks after damaging hail and tornadoes hit parts of the Panhandle and South Florida.

But what does it mean to be prepared? Floridians know that it pays to plan ahead and many Florida families keep a well-rounded stock of non-perishable food items and bottled water as a force of habit. While these items may be the first on your preparation plans, there’s much more that can also be done to make sure your family is prepared.

Emergency Financial Preparedness ToolkitFor example, if severe weather was headed your way and your family needed to evacuate quickly, do you have a checklist of things that need to be in the car before you leave? Make sure copies of your insurance policies and contact numbers for your insurance agents make the list! If your home or car is damaged, it’s important to file a claim quickly and the process flows much more smoothly if you have the necessary documents on hand.

If you have questions, or simply don’t know where to begin, our Department has plenty of tools to help. From checklists and toolkits that make creating your preparation plans a cinch to hotlines and videos that help you know where to turn when disaster strikes, we stand ready to provide tips and tools to help you feel confident in your disaster plans.Protect your homebase

I encourage you to visit our website and use the tools we have available to make sure your family is storm ready year-round. Also, please consider downloading a severe weather warning app to your smart phone. It’s a great way to stay informed and to get alerts when bad weather is approaching.

Stay safe out there.

Sincerely,

Jeff
Jeff Atwater
Chief Financial Officer
State of Florida


Bills would protect life insurance beneficiaries

An Op-Ed from the Orlando Sentinel | February 19, 2016 | by Jeff Atwater


Life insurance beneficiaries need protection from companies' schemes and delays.

Purchasing a life insurance policy is one of the most important decisions an individual can make. Many see the purchase as a one-time transaction—find the policy that fulfills your needs, sign up, pay the premiums and expect the company will be there for your family when the time comes. Sadly, that's not how it always works.

We've discovered a systemic practice within the life insurance industry in which many companies are sitting on billions of dollars in overdue, unpaid life insurance benefits. Why? Their excuses are endless but it boils down to greed.

By not paying money to the named beneficiary, it remains inside company vaults earning the company millions in interest each year.

Think about that. Do you know where your life insurance paperwork is? It could be in the attic, in a filing cabinet or long ago put in the trash. If you can't remember where it is, hopefully your loved one can find it after you're gone because the burden is on him or her to have it in hand in order to collect on the policy.

My job as chief financial officer of Florida is to help keep every hard-earned dollar in the pockets of Floridians, where it belongs. It's also my duty to protect consumers when we discover disturbing practices like this.

For the past five years, I've worked alongside Florida Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty to hold insurance companies accountable for upholding the promises they made to their policyholders. So far, 20 of the largest insurance companies have settled with the state and agreed to reach out to beneficiaries and inform them of policy benefits in their names. If they're unable to connect with the beneficiary, they must turn over the unclaimed funds to the state so we can keep trying to connect the money to whom it belongs.

As a result of these settlements, more than 141,000 policies have been identified as belonging to Floridians and nearly half a billion dollars have been returned to Floridians so far.

Imagine how much more can be returned if all insurance companies were committed to doing the right thing.

We have legislation moving through the process that will solidify what we have achieved through settlements. In addition to protecting consumers moving forward, it also requires insurance companies to look retroactively and follow up with those families whose benefits should have been paid long ago. Some within the insurance industry disagree and have poured a lot of money into lobbying to stop our efforts.

I would like to thank Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, R-Fort Myers, and Rep. Bill Hager, R-Delray Beach, for championing this important piece of legislation.

Will you join me in this effort? Tell your legislator to support this reasonable change to public policy that will protect you and your neighbors who purchase life insurance policies.

Black History MonthFebruary is Black History Month

Daniel "Chappie" James, Jr.Chappie James

Florida is the home state of the first African American four-star general in the history of the United States Air Force. Daniel "Chappie" James, Jr. was born in 1920 near the Pensacola Naval Air Station, and his passion for flying started at a young age. James became a member of the famous Tuskegee Airmen in 1943, later completing more than 100 combat missions during the Korean Conflict. In 1966, he served as the vice commander of the Eighth Tactical Fighter Wing in Thailand, completing 78 combat missions in North Vietnam.

James became Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense in 1970. In 1974 he assumed duty as vice commander of the Military Airlift Command. James was promoted to four-star grade and assigned as commander in chief of NORAD/ADCOM in 1975, where he had operational command of all United States and Canadian strategic aerospace defense forces. In 1977, he assumed duty as special assistant to the Chief of Staff, U.S. Air Force.

General James was widely known for his speeches on Americanism and patriotism, for which he was editorialized in many national and international publications. General James died of a heart ailment in 1978, three weeks following his retirement from the Air Force and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery. A lifelong friend of Florida Governor Reubin Askew, General James received numerous military decorations and civilian awards.

Florida'sa Bottom Line Winter 2016Florida's Bottom Line on Florida’s Economic Health

As the inside track on Florida’s financial health, Florida's Bottom Line is an in-depth quarterly financial newsletter providing the latest news and analysis on Florida’s economic health.

The newest edition of Florida’s Bottom Line is focused on the opportunities that lie ahead in this year as well as highlights of the progress that we have made in the past year. Inside, you will find an economic forecast and expert analysis on Florida from a leading economist, insightful outlooks on key emerging trends as well as a look back on Florida’s economic achievements in 2015.

The accompanying Florida's Bottom Line website will keep you updated with the latest statistics on Florida's jobs and economy. Special reports, infographics and past editions are archived on the website for easy access.

The Florida Rundown on Florida's Service Transition Program for Military Firefighters Removing unnecessary hurdles for our military

Military service members and veterans share the discipline, education and experience that’s integral to becoming part of Florida’s firefighting community.

Operation Dispatch allows our military veterans the opportunity to apply comparative experience-based training to fulfill certification requirements to continue protecting the safety and well-being of those in our communities. If you are a current military service member or veteran and would like more information on Operation Dispatch, visit the Bureau of Fire Standards and Training OPERATION DISPATCH webpage.

The Florida Rundown highlights accomplishments of the 14 divisions of the CFO's Department of Financial Services for 2015.

Florida Economic Briefs

Florida’s housing market increases over the year
In January, there were over 16,000 closed home sales in Florida, up 2.7 percent from this time last year. Additionally, the median sale price is up 13.7 percent over the year, to $199,000.
Source: Florida Realtors

Record number of tourists visited Florida in 2015
A record 105 million tourists visited Florida last year, which is 6.5 million more than in 2014 (98.5 million). According to Visit Florida, an estimated 11.2 million tourists were from overseas and 4 million were from Canada. The increase in tourism is viewed as a response to the nation’s economic recovery, and marks the fifth year in a row of record tourism in Florida.
Source: Visit Florida