My Florida C F O

Dear Fellow Floridians:

Our great state of Florida is home to a large community of Holocaust survivors — a community that lived through one of the deadliest genocidal acts to ever occur. In fact, there are an estimated 12,500 Holocaust survivors and their families who have chosen Florida as their safe-haven. Unfortunately, there isn’t anything in this world that can undo the Nazi-driven nightmare that plagues the memories of the survivors who suffered through unimaginable horrors. However, International Holocaust Day is recognized this Friday, January 27, and offers a time for us to remember, reflect and pray for the millions of innocent victims that were killed and the countless families that were destroyed under Hitler’s regime.

Holocaust Survivor Fee Waiver ProgramNot only was this horrific genocide carried out on the innocent, but so much was taken from so many families — art, jewelry, bank accounts, investments, etc. — these items of sentimental value also carry a large monetary value as well. A few years ago, I set out to see what could be done to connect Holocaust survivors and their families with as many financial resources and services as possible to help them move forward from this cruel chapter in history. While on this journey, we found that many of the deadlines have passed for submitting claims to Holocaust compensation programs, but it may be possible to submit a claim directly with the financial institution or with remaining open restitution funds — that’s where we stepped in.

The Department championed a change in law in 2013 that enabled our Department to educate Holocaust survivors regarding restitution programs still available in Germany, Poland, the Czech Republic, France, Austria, and Hungary, and also to provide them with help in filling out the applications. These reforms allow the Department to seek repayment for Nazi-confiscated bank accounts, art and property; provide education about the existence of the restitution program to Holocaust survivors; and to assist survivors in receiving needed home healthcare services.

In addition, the Department has multiple programs and resources geared toward not only helping facilitate and assist survivors with the disbursement of European reparation payments and insurance benefits, but we have also partnered with several financial institutions to establish the Holocaust Survivor Fee Waiver Program. In an effort to keep Holocaust survivors' money in their own pockets, this program waives the international wire transfer fee on reparation payments for Holocaust survivors and their families. On average, these fees would amount to a 10 percent tax on each payment the survivor receives.

In 2016, we’ve helped more than 1,700 Holocaust survivors receive nearly $2.7 million in benefits that were owed. In addition, more than 7,800 survivors were provided with education and outreach efforts regarding financial Holocaust-era restitution and since the program’s inception in 1998, the Department has helped facilitate the recovery of more than $26.3 million for Holocaust survivors. It is my hope that these numbers continue to grow. Our resources are plentiful and our specialists are standing by, ready to assist.

If you know a Holocaust survivor or relative who could use our assistance, I encourage you to send them our way. The Department’s Holocaust Assistance Programs are free to all and restricted to none, so please don’t wait to call our toll-free helpline, 1-800-388-4069, or visit our website at www.MyFloridaCFO.com/Division/Consumers/Holocaust/.

While this chapter in history was a terrible one, it’s one we must never forget and one that we must never stop talking about.

Sincerely,

Jeff
Jeff Atwater
Chief Financial Officer
State of Florida


Operation S.A.F.E., Be Scam Smart Workshops

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.

Operation S.A.F.E.Be Scam Smart by learning more about:

  • How to Spot Fraudulent Behavior
  • Common Scams that Target Seniors
  • How to Fight Identity Theft

Feedback from seniors who attended a Be Scam Smart workshop:

“Savored every moment of this workshop. The information was needed and vital for seniors’ and consumers’ financial survival.” - West Palm Beach

“Presentations were great & well timed. Excellent information we all need to know.” - Pensacola

“Every senior in the city and state should attend the Be Scam Smart Workshop.” - Jacksonville

“Thank you for alerting us to the scam we as seniors are exposed to.” - Brandon


Find out more about us in the About Us section or Register for an upcoming event, including the following workshop:

  • Tuesday, February 7 – Arcadia
    10:00 a.m. - 11:30 a.m.
    DeSoto County Administration Building, Room 103
    201 East Oak Street, Arcadia, FL 34266
    Register | Directions | Flyer

  • Wednesday, February 8 – Wauchula
    10:00 a.m. - 11:30 a.m.
    Hardee County Public Library
    315 N. 6th Avenue, Wauchula, FL 33873
    Register | Directions | Flyer

Please let us know if you would like to request a workshop in your area.

Sean Snaith, Ph.D., is the director of the University of Central Florida’s Institute for Economic CompetitivenessFlorida's Bottom Line: Florida's Economic Outlook

Sean Snaith, Ph.D., guest-authored a column in our latest edition of Florida's Bottom Line that focuses on the outlook for Florida's economy. Here is an excerpt:

Florida’s economy enjoyed another solid year of growth in 2016. The latest job data for November showed that the Sunshine State added 263,900 jobs year-over-year, a 3.2 percent increase. The U.S. economy experienced job growth of 1.6 percent over the same time frame.

This growth has been diversified with every industrial sector, with the exception of the Information sector, contributing to this job growth. The Information sector, home to traditional media companies including newspapers and other periodicals, continues to struggle with structural change in how information is gathered and disseminated faces declining print advertising revenue that is not being offset by rising online advertising.

Since November of 2010, Florida has created 1.27 million jobs and in 2017, the state is well poised to add to this total.

Read more from Dr. Snaith in the current edition of Florida's Bottom Line, CFO Atwater's award-winning 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’s unemployment rate unchanged in December
Florida’s unemployment rate was 4.9 percent in December, unchanged from November, and down 0.2 percentage points from December of last year (5.1 percent). The national unemployment rate was 4.7 percent in December.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Florida’s housing prices and sales rise in December
In December, the median sales price of homes rose 9.2 percent over the year, to $226,000. Additionally, more than 22,300 homes were sold in Florida, up 0.8 percent from this time last year.
Source: Florida Realtors