My Florida C F O

Dear Fellow Floridians:

It goes without saying that June 1 has a special meaning to Floridians: the start of the Atlantic Hurricane Season. Last fall, Florida’s 10-year hurricane-free streak was broken as Hurricane Hermine made landfall near the coast of St. Marks. About one month later, Hurricane Matthew made landfall over Haiti as a Hurricane Matthew pathCategory 4 hurricane, later embarking on a three-day journey up Florida’s east coast and into Georgia and the Carolinas, causing damage that exceeded $729 million and generated 112,000 insurance claims. In total, Floridians last year filed nearly 130,000 insurance claims totaling roughly $800 million in losses. The question now is: If a storm were to reach Florida’s shores next week, would you be prepared?

Last year’s hurricane season affected a large majority of our state, leaving many of us with wind-damaged property, flooded homes and one big headache. As some us learned, sandbags and boarded windows will only get you so far. In some ways, our destiny will be defined by Mother Nature, regardless of what may lay in her path. Experts are predicting that the United States should prepare for another active season with an estimated 11 to 17 named storms and five to nine hurricanes, with two to four of those storms growing to category 3 or higher. But remember, it only takes one.
Financial Preparedness Toolkit
With the start of the 2017 Hurricane Season quickly approaching, it is up to you to make sure your emergency preparedness efforts reach beyond bottled water and batteries and include being financially prepared for a hurricane event. I encourage all Floridians to start putting together an insurance and financial packet that you can easily take with you should you need to leave your home in a hurry. Be sure to include documentation associated with property and health insurance policies as well as financial account information and contact information for banks and insurance companies. Having these documents put together ahead of time allows you to have ready access to all of the information necessary to file an insurance claim during an emergency evacuation.

If you need a hand getting your insurance-related preparation underway—no problem. We’ve created a simple, easy-to-use financial preparedness toolkit to assist with this process. Our toolkit provides a single place to jot down and keep track of all of your insurance information. In the event that a storm directly affects you and your family, this toolkit can help you keep a list of adjuster contacts, emergency service contacts such as the Red Cross, FEMA and the Department’s consumer helpline, as well as a log of any calls you’ve made to insurance companies or agents about claims you may have to file.

Our toolkit can be downloaded in ENGLISH, SPANISH and CREOLE and serves as an essential tool to supplement your preparation efforts. To learn more, please visit our website for additional tips and tools at http://www.myfloridacfo.com/division/Consumers/Storm/.

Take a minute and dust off your preparation materials and ensure you and your family will be financially prepared for this year’s hurricane season.

Sincerely,

Jeff
Jeff Atwater
Chief Financial Officer
State of Florida



CFO Atwater’s Fraud-Fighting Efforts Successful in First Quarter of 2017

DIFS BadgeCFO Jeff Atwater announced that fraud-fighting efforts led by the Department of Financial Services took 322 law-breaking fraudsters off the streets during the first quarter of 2017. The Department’s anti-fraud efforts focus on the areas of public assistance and insurance fraud, arson, and the theft or abuse of state funds.

"Fraud of any form drives up costs for all Floridians, and I’m proud of the work we’ve done to hold the line on fraud in our state," said CFO Atwater. "Our efforts are amplified by the partnerships we’ve forged with local law enforcement agencies, and I hope these results send a shockwave to other would-be criminals that they should think twice before committing a crime."

Insurance Fraud

The Department’s Division of Investigative and Forensic Services (DIFS) oversees insurance fraud and workers’ compensation fraud investigations, as well as those handled by the Office of Fiscal Integrity, which siphons out waste, fraud and the abuse of state funds.

Between January 1 and March 31, 2017, these units made 260 arrests and made nearly 300 case presentations to state attorneys across Florida. Additionally, 230 successful prosecutions were secured during this time.

One notable arrest was of a South Florida woman who hit herself over the head with a broken sprinkler unit in order to file for workers’ compensation. Surveillance footage secured by investigators proved that the woman had not been injured by the falling object as she claimed.

Public Assistance Fraud

The Department’s Division of Public Assistance Fraud safeguards Floridians against public assistance fraud by aggressively fighting against the improper use of public assistance benefits, such as temporary food and housing assistance.

Between January 1 and March 31, 2017, the Division referred 535 cases to Florida’s 20 State Attorney’s Offices. Investigations saved $478,000 from being paid out to people found to be improperly using the programs, and another $4,016,051 was paid back in restitution by people caught misusing state program funds.

Additionally, the State provides a program that helps Florida families secure low-cost day care services if they are in need. As a result of the Division’s efforts, public assistance fraud investigators secured 66 new low-cost day care openings by removing ineligible families who fraudulently obtained access to these benefits.

Arson

DIFS’ Bureau of Fire and Arson Investigations roots out possible signs of foul play on fire scenes. Oftentimes, acts of arson are committed in order to hide more significant crimes or in order to collect insurance money.

The Bureau responded to nearly 900 calls for service during the first quarter of 2017, and made 62 arrests. An additional 104 case presentations were made during that time period.

The Department’s efforts continue, and Floridians are asked to assist by reporting suspicious behavior to authorities. To report suspected insurance fraud, call 1-800-378-0445. To report a suspicious fire, call 1-877-662-7766. To report the misuse of public assistance, call 1-866-762-2237.

Florida's Bottom Line: Fighting for Florida’s Firefighters

Julius Halas guest-authored a column in our latest edition of Florida's Bottom Line that focuses on Florida's Firefighter Memorial Monument at the Florida State Capitol. Here is an excerpt:

Julius Halas, Director of the Florida Division of State Fire MarshalIn early 2013, CFO Atwater, who also serves as Florida’s State Fire Marshal, shared his vision of a fallen firefighter monument in Florida’s capital city. After months of planning, CFO Atwater and the Commissioner of Agriculture, Adam Putnam, sponsored a Cabinet resolution that authorized the creation of a monument to be built on the grounds of the State Capitol Building in Tallahassee. Today, the monument stands as testaments to the spirit and legacy of firefighters — past, present, and future.

On St. Patrick’s Day 2015, the Department hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony that opened the monument to the public. The monument honors fire service personnel who have made the ultimate sacrifice of losing their lives in the line of duty. The installation of a bronze firefighter statue in early 2018 will complete the monument.

Firefighter MemorialRead more from Chief Halas in the Spring edition of Florida's Bottom Line. A one-stop shop for the latest news and valuable insight on Florida's economy and financial health, Florida's Bottom Line is CFO Atwater's award-winning quarterly economic magazine and website.

Florida’s Bottom Line website reports the latest Florida financial news, with detailed charts showing the trends of Florida's economy and jobs over the past eight years, updated when new stats are released.

Florida Economic Briefs

Florida’s unemployment rate decreased to 4.5 percent in April
Florida’s unemployment rate was 4.5 percent in April, down 0.3 percentage points from March (4.8 percent) and down 0.5 percentage points from April of last year (5.0 percent). Florida’s unemployment rate is currently higher than the U.S. unemployment rate of 4.5 percent.
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Miami ranked as the best metropolitan area of startup activity in U.S.
According to a recent report from the Kauffman Foundation, the Miami, FL MSA had the highest startup activity in the country. Miami overtook Austin, TX as the MSA with the highest startup activity in 2017.
Source: Kauffman Foundation