My Florida C F O

Dear Fellow Floridians:

As your Chief Financial Officer, I work each day to aggressively fight the fraud that drives up the cost of living in Florida. I often share with you stories of staged car accidents, workers’ compensation scams, and floods that were intentionally created in order to collect insurance benefits, but it’s important to know that fraud comes in many forms.

Operation Cash for CardsFor example, did you know that most instances of arson are committed so the arsonist can later file an insurance claim on the property they’ve intentionally destroyed? Many don’t think of arson as a financial crime, but it most certainly is.

The schemes don’t stop there. We also see cases where individuals defraud public benefits systems that are designed to temporarily support Florida families during their greatest times of need.

Click on image for larger view.

Just this week, I joined with the Florida Department of Children and Families, the Orange County Sheriff’s Office and the Ninth Circuit State Attorney Jeffrey L. Ashton to announce arrests related to a food stamp fraud case in Orlando.

Using the stolen identities of more than 600 people, the two defendants completed hundreds of online applications for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits — more commonly known as food stamps. To conceal their efforts from the watchful eyes of program administrators, this duo had their fraudulent cards mailed to a network of addresses — addresses belonging to vacant homes, businesses and even churches.

In total, Eurick Fenot and Quinteria Williams collected nearly $200,000 in fraudulent benefits — benefits from public programs that all of our tax dollars go to support. Stop and think for a moment about how much is taken from each of your paychecks for taxes and you’ll be just as angry about this as I am.

Thanks to the dedicated work of our Divisions of Public Assistance Fraud and Insurance Fraud and our partners in the Florida Department of Children and Families, thousands more in benefits were stopped before they could be sent to this pair of criminals.

This week, their web of lies unraveled. With their arrests, a message was sent: we will not tolerate acts of fraud in Florida. To help carry this message forward, our message to all Floridians is simple: if you see something, say something. If you suspect that fraud is happening around you, please give us a call at 1-800-378-0445. You can choose to remain anonymous and if the information you provide to us leads directly to a conviction, you may even be eligible for a cash reward.

Help us continue to work toward a fraud-free Florida.

Sincerely,

Jeff
Jeff Atwater
Chief Financial Officer
State of Florida


March is Women's History Month

Women's History MonthMarjorie Kinnan RawlingsEach week this month, we are featuring a prominent American woman leader and highlighting her contributions to our state and country.

Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings

Born August 8, 1896 in Washington D.C., Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings graduated from the University of Wisconsin in 1918 and became a journalist. After buying an orange grove with her first husband, Rawlings moved to Cross Creek, Florida, and began writing novels and stories focused on rural themes and settings.

Rawlings became famous for her works that reflected her new lifestyle — hunting and fishing, identifying plants and animals, and surviving in the wild. In the 1930s and early 1940s, Rawlings wrote Golden Apples (1935) and Cross Creek (1942). Her novels of the big scrub, South Moon Under (1933) and The Yearling (1938), which won her the 1939 Pulitzer Prize and many fans, remain popular and are still published today. The Yearling was hailed as a classic of American popular fiction and critics praised her skill in recreating the way of life of the backwoods of Florida.

In 1942, Rawlings met Zora Neale Hurston and became friends with the author of Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937). The two women would meet in St. Augustine and Cross Creek to talk about their lives as writers.

An unlicensed contractor could leave your home unfinished.Fraud Prevention Month

All legitimate contractors must carry insurance. Ask for proof of liability and workers’ compensation coverage, and then verify it by calling the Division of Workers’ Compensation at 1-800-742-2214. If they are unable to provide proof of insurance, do not use them and report them by calling this same number.

Beware of fly-by-night repair businesses. Hire licensed, reputable, preferably local service people, and be cautious of any contractor or appraiser who says they can adjust your insurance claim. You can verify a contractor’s license and check to see if there are any complaints against them by calling the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation at 1-850-487-1395. Also, ask for references from previous work, and be sure to report unlicensed contractors at 1-866-532-1440 or ULA@myfloridalicense.com.

Outlook on 2016Florida's Bottom Line on Florida's Economy

As a one-stop shop for the latest news and valuable insight on Florida's economic and financial health, Florida's Bottom Line is CFO Atwater's in-depth quarterly economic newsletter.

The newest edition of Florida’s Bottom Line is focused on the opportunities that lie ahead in 2016 as well as highlights of the progress that we made in the past year. Inside, you will find exclusive analyses and commentary from leading experts in Florida 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 economy. Special reports, infographics and past editions are archived on the website for easy access.

Florida Economic Briefs

Florida unemployment rate down in February
Florida’s unemployment rate was 4.9 percent in January, down 0.2 percentage points from January (5.1 percent) and down 0.7 percentage points from February of last year (5.6 percent). The U.S. unemployment rate was 4.9 percent in February.
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Florida outpaces U.S. in income growth
Personal income in Florida rose 5.2 percent in 2015, which is 0.8 percentage point higher than the national average of 4.4 percent. Florida’s personal income growth was the sixth highest in the nation.
Source: U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis