My Florida C F O

Dear Fellow Floridians:

Happy new year — fiscal year, that is. With the start of this new year, many laws recently passed by the Florida Legislature become effective July 1, including many that were proposed or supported by our office.

Notably, Florida’s ban on balance billing went into effect on that date — a measure that will have far-reaching impacts on the people of Florida who might have otherwise been saddled with unexpected and costly medical bills. A measure that transformed our award-winning unclaimed property program into a standalone division that will have even better bandwidth to reunite Floridians with their unclaimed cash and property, and another that afforded greater efficiencies within our law enforcement units also went into effect on this day.

CFO helps deliver Unclaimed Property check from a life insurance policyWhile some bills have already gone into effect or will become effective later in the year, we’re continuing to talk about them, and to share information with our partners about how the implementation process of these measures will play out. In my eyes, passing a law is success, but it’s only half of the process. We must also communicate with our constituents about these laws and their impacts on our daily lives. To truly be effective, we must communicate effectively.

The implementation of Florida’s life insurance law is one example of how we’re trying to practice what we preach. Senate Bill 966, which successfully passed and is now Florida law, holds life insurance companies to account for properly paying out life insurance policies to beneficiaries and turning over policy funds when companies are unable to contact and pay a beneficiary.

In years past, many companies were not doing so, and while the newly-passed law compels all companies to correct course on these greedy business practices, we want to spread the word among Floridians.

Just this week, we delivered an unclaimed property check to a Punta Gorda woman, Deborah, whose mother died more than 20 years ago. Unbeknownst to Deborah, her mother named her as the beneficiary, but because Deborah didn't know, she never claimed the policy. Twenty-three years later, because of our work to hold life insurance companies accountable, her mother’s chosen insurance company finally turned over that policy as part of a settlement agreement that was brokered.

It was an honor and a privilege to hand that money to Deborah — money that was owed to her so long ago. As if her mother was with her once again, she now knows that her mother had thought of her future, had set money aside, had planned to help with her own final expenses. Regardless of the amount — large or small — that is a gift in and of itself.

Through televised check deliveries like this one or live phone banks, we’re raising awareness about Florida’s unclaimed property program and urging Floridians like you to check our database for an account we may be holding onto. Like Deborah, you may not have known you were named as beneficiary on a loved one’s life insurance policy, and therefore may not have known to file a claim upon their passing. However, if that policy was never paid out, it may now or in the future become unclaimed property that’s claimable through our department.

Check www.FLTreasureHunt.org today. That is our official, state-run website where you can search for accounts in your name. Check it tomorrow, six weeks from now, and again nine months later. It’s completely free, and we load new accounts every day.

We’ll keep getting the word out, and I hope you keep checking. You have nothing to lose, and a gift from heaven to possibly gain.

Sincerely,

Jeff
Jeff Atwater
Chief Financial Officer
State of Florida


 

Ash Williams, Executive Director of the SBAA Volatile Start for 2016

Ash Williams guest authored a column in our latest edition. Here is an excerpt:

As we come to the end of Q1 2016, a quick comparison of current equity market valuations and interest rates to those at the start of the year would show little change and imply a stable period. In fact, the first part of 2016 was characterized by extreme market volatility, as reflected by U.S. equity prices falling approximately 10 percent and then recovering. What were the conditions that caused such extreme changes in perceived market value and what do they mean to investors?

The most fundamental question has been whether the U.S. and other economies can sustain or strengthen the slow, modest recovery we have been in since the great financial crisis or whether economies will tip back into recession or worse. Events that raise doubt about the sustainability of recovery tip financial markets away from risk assets (stocks) and toward non-risk assets (treasury bonds). The immediate reflection of these emotional moves is stock price declines and bond price increases (meaning lower interest rates).

Read more from Ash Williams in Florida's Bottom Line, CFO Atwater's quarterly economic magazine, focused on providing you with the latest news and insightful analysis on Florida's economic and financial health.

Florida Economic Briefs

Florida expected to outpace the nation in economic growth
Florida’s leading index is expected to increase by 2.2 percent over the next 6 months, 0.8 percentage points higher than the national prediction of 1.4 percent. The Leading Index predicts the six-month growth rate of the state’s coincident index, which is a summary of current economic conditions.
Source: Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia

Florida’s new housing permits down over the year
In May, Florida’s new housing permits fell 1.6 percent over the prior year. Higher home building permits indicate a growing supply of homes for sale in the future and are an important indicator for Florida’s housing market.
Source: U.S. Census