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FLORIDA CHIEF FINANCIAL OFFICER TOM GALLAGHER'S WEEKLY NEWSLETTER

Volume 3, Number 34, August 21, 2006

The response to the My Safe Florida Home Program has been incredible!  We have received nearly 130,000 calls and 70,000 applications for free home inspections through the www.mysafefloridahome.com website from Floridians around the state.  

Our goal is to serve as many as 12,000 Floridians over the next twelve weeks. 

Free home inspections are now starting in Broward, Miami-Dade and Lee counties.  We will then phase into additional counties in the coming weeks, as additional inspectors are screened, tested and trained.  

If you have submitted an application from a county other than Broward, Miami-Dade or Lee, and have submitted the necessary documentation to be approved, we will send you a letter informing you that you have been approved and that you will be contacted once qualified inspectors are in your area.   

Our open enrollment period for accepting applications will continue through November 15, 2006.  

To help you get started, we have set up an easy way for you to apply for your free home inspection on-line. Please click on the “Apply for a Free Home Inspection” button at the top of the www.mysafefloridahome.com  homepage to see if you are eligible and, if so, get the application process underway.
 
We encourage homeowners to check out the information available throughout the website, including tips for strengthening critical parts of your home and topics ranging from protecting homes from water damage to selecting a contractor.
 
We look forward to serving Floridians and to better protect families against hurricanes!


-- Tom Gallagher


GALLAGHER KICKS OFF $250 MILLION PROGRAM TO HELP FORTIFY FLORIDA AGAINST HURRICANES

Goal is 12,000 homes in 12 weeks; 50,000 over the next year

Tom Gallagher, Florida’s chief financial officer, kicked off the My Safe Florida Home program, a $250 million mitigation program to help Floridians strengthen their homes against hurricanes and to reduce property losses in Florida. Gallagher said eligible Floridians can now apply for a free home inspection and professional recommendations on how to improve their homes’ ability to withstand a hurricane. Gallagher said that as many as 50,000 Florida households will be served over the next year through this program.

It has been a priority for the Department of Financial Services to get the My Safe Florida Home program up and running as quickly as possible. Since the new law went into effect on July 1, the Department of Financial Services remained committed to their goal to serve as many Floridians as possible this hurricane season, by having My Safe Florida Home open for business less than 60 days of its creation. In fact, the Department of Financial Services has already helped more than 23,000 Floridians find out more about how they can make their homes safer against hurricanes.

“I applaud the Florida Legislature for providing a tremendous financial commitment to make older homes more resistant to damage caused by hurricanes,” said Governor Jeb Bush. “With more than three months remaining in the 2006 Hurricane Season, I thank CFO Gallagher and the Department of Financial Services for working to quickly implement this critical program. Fortifying Florida through mitigation efforts will ensure our economy remains strong in the face of future hurricanes.”


“Before this hurricane season ends, my goal is to have 12,000 free home inspections completed and grants awarded to help Floridians strengthen their homes and better protect their families from hurricanes,” said Gallagher, who oversees the Department of Financial Services. “Fortifying homes in Florida is a common-sense solution for the insurance crisis in our state. Governor Bush and I are committed to building on the success of this program and making sure every Floridian benefits by making our homes and communities safer.”

To be eligible to apply for a free home inspection, Floridians must live in a single-family, site-built home with an insured value of $500,000 or less and have a valid homestead exemption. Documents verifying this information must be submitted with a completed application. Floridians can apply on-line at www.mysafefloridahome.com or by calling 1-800-342-2762 to get an application packet.

Gallagher said that once an inspection has been done, the homeowner will receive a report within 7 to 10 days that outlines up to seven areas that could be improved to better protect the home against hurricanes, an estimate of how much each of those improvements would cost, the expected savings the homeowner would receive if the improvements were made, and a rating of the home’s current ability to withstand hurricanes and its future ability with improvements.

The department has worked with the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes (FLASH) to screen and train 130 inspectors to begin work within the next two weeks. An additional 400 inspectors are expected to complete the screening and training required within the next 30 days.

Gallagher said that applying and obtaining a free home inspection is just the first step of the program. Homeowners who undergo the My Safe Florida Home inspection may also qualify for matching grants of up to $5,000 to fortify their homes. As directed by the new law to reduce hurricane exposure and property losses in Florida, grants will be prioritized and awarded to homeowners who live in high-risk, hurricane-vulnerable areas of the state.

Gallagher said the department will also start screening and qualifying contractors to perform retrofit improvements this week. Gallagher also said that a registry of participating contractors by county and by the type of work they perform will soon be available on-line at www.mysafefloridahome.com or by calling the department.

“We want to help as many Floridians strengthen their homes, while making sure that they get the best quality of work to protect their home,” Gallagher said.

The department is partnering with city and county governments, as well as non-profit organizations, to expand the reach of the program and to strengthen a greater number of homes against catastrophic storms. Gallagher said these partnerships will enable the My Safe Florida Home program to leverage resources and maximize reach by linking with local mitigation assistance programs already in place.


GALLAGHER SHOWCASES FREE HOME INSPECTIONS TO PROMOTE MY SAFE FLORIDA HOME PROGRAM        

Tom Gallagher, Florida’s chief financial officer, initiated the My Safe Florida Home program by showcasing the free mitigation inspection process at homes in Miami and St. Petersburg.   

The Department of Financial Services, which is administering the program, has already received more than 70,000 applications for a free home inspection.

“By fortifying homes, we are making families and communities safer and reducing the level of catastrophic losses from hurricanes,” Gallagher said. “We are committed to making this program a success so the Legislature strongly considers funding this program for years to come.”

“It is my top priority to protect the residents of Hialeah and I am proud to work with CFO Gallagher to strengthen the homes in our community and make them safer against hurricanes,” said Julio Robaina, mayor of the City of Hialeah. “CFO Gallagher should be applauded for taking proactive steps to make our community safer and help ease our insurance burden.”  

“With the experience Florida has had in past hurricane seasons, it is imperative that strengthening the homes in our communities is a high priority,” said St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker. “I applaud the state of Florida for adopting and implementing this program and look forward to working with them in the effort to better protect our residents. I am thankful that St. Petersburg was chosen as a pilot city to begin this process.”

The program was approved this year by the Legislature to address the state’s property insurance crisis following eight hurricanes that caused nearly $40 billion in insured losses in the past two years. Gallagher said of the 50,000 homes he plans to serve through the program, his goal is to inspect 12,000 homes before the end of this hurricane season.

On Wednesday, Angelina Guixens’ Hialeah home was the first to be inspected in the program in Miami-Dade County.  Then on Thursday, the home of Johnnie Mae Wynn, a senior living in St. Petersburg, got the first inspection in Pinellas County.  Both seniors, they will receive a report within 7 to10 days detailing the areas of her home that could be strengthened to better protect her and her home against hurricanes. The report will include an estimate of how much each of those improvements would cost, the expected insurance savings if the improvements were made, and a rating of the home’s current ability to withstand a hurricane and the home’s future ability with improvements.

The Miami program is being conducted through the Department of Financial Services’ partnership with Miami-Dade County’s Mitigation Program and Community Action Agency, low-income homeowners like Ms. Guixens will have the opportunity to make recommended improvements using the financial help provided through the county matching its funds with the My Safe Florida Home program.

“The state of Florida is to be applauded for taking a leadership role in making thousands of Miami-Dade County homes safer in the event of future high wind storms,” said Bill Moriarty, Director of the Weatherization Programs for the Miami-Dade County Community Action Agency.

“This new and innovative program allows us to greatly expand on our current efforts. We are now better prepared to protect the more than 2.6 million residents of Miami-Dade County,” said Frank Reddish, Local Mitigation Strategy Director for the Miami-Dade County Office of Emergency Management.

Reddish said that the Miami-Dade program has been putting free hurricane shutters on the homes of low-income elderly residents for several years. Reddish says the program is currently targeting efforts to help low-income disabled citizens. Reddish said that he works with Moriarty with the Community Action Agency to administer this program. Not one of the homes we retrofitted was damaged by the hurricanes of 2004 and 2005, Reddish said.

The Pinellas County program will be conducted in partnership with the City of St. Petersburg.

“St. Petersburg is pleased to partner with the state of Florida to provide additional assistance to our residents in helping to protect their homes from hurricane and wind damage,” said Tom de Yampert, Manager Housing & Community Development. “This program will expand our ability to offer hurricane hardening assistance to citizens in time for the 2007 hurricane season.”

To apply for a free home inspection, Floridians must live in a single-family, site-built home with an insured value of $500,000 or less and have a valid homestead exemption. Floridians can apply on-line at www.mysafefloridahome.com or by calling 1-800-342-2762 to get an application packet. Homeowners who undergo the My Safe Florida Home inspection may also qualify for matching grants of up to $5,000 to fortify their homes.

The department is partnering with city and county governments, as well as non-profit organizations, to expand the reach of the program and to strengthen a greater number of homes against catastrophic storms.


FORTIFY FLORIDA EXPOS TO TEACH FLORIDIANS TO FORTIFY THEIR HOMES AGAINST HURRICANES

Floridians can learn first hand ways to make their homes more hurricane-resistant during a series of Fortify Florida expos designed to be a one-stop shop for hurricane improvement efforts.
The first of three Fortify Florida expos is set for 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 26 in St. Petersburg. Themed “Tampa Bay Prepares,” the first Fortify Florida expo will feature hurricane-proofing home improvement demonstrations and products, and specific steps homeowners can take to earn insurance premium discounts for taking these hurricane-resistance measures.

The Fortify Florida expos are being held in conjunction with the My Safe Florida Home program, a program administered by the Florida Department of Financial Services to protect Floridians and assist them in making their homes safer against hurricanes.

“The My Safe Florida Home Program is open for business and accepting applications for free home inspections,” said Tom Gallagher, Florida’s Chief Financial Officer. “Our mission is to help Floridians identify how they can strengthen their homes and better protect themselves and their families against hurricanes. We have the financial capacity to serve as many as 50,000 Floridians over the next year, and with the Legislature’s continued funding, we look forward to providing free inspections and matching grants to all Floridians.”

In addition to learning how they can apply for My Safe Florida Home, residents who attend the Fortify Florida: Tampa Bay Prepares! Expo can participate in home improvement how-to clinics, visit displays of building materials to strengthen homes and talk to insurance company representatives about how they can take advantage of premium discounts for hurricane hardening their home. Local contractors, home improvement stores, banks, mortgage companies and credit counseling services are also invited to participate. For more information, please contact Audrey Sumrall Brown at (850) 413-2429.

Future Fortify Florida expos are scheduled for the Pensacola Civic Center on Saturday, Sept. 30 and the Boca Raton campus of Florida Atlantic University on Saturday, Oct. 14.

To get more information on these events and to learn the steps you can take to make your home more hurricane-resistant, visit the My Safe Florida Home website at www.mysafefloridahome.com.


GOVERNOR BUSH HERALDS FLORIDA’S STRONG JOB STATISTICS

Florida leads the nation’s ten most populous states in job creation

Governor Jeb Bush today touted Florida’s most recent employment numbers, highlighting the state’s continued success as a national leader in job creation. According to statistics released today by the Agency for Workforce Innovation, Florida added 259,800 jobs (seasonally adjusted) from July 2005 to July 2006. Florida’s unemployment rate is 3.3 percent, and its job growth rate is more than twice the national average.

Today’s report is great news as Florida continues to see the positive results of our low-tax, pro-business climate,” said Governor Bush.  “Together, Floridians have created a self-sustaining cycle of economic success.  This latest report shows Florida consistently has more job opportunities, a clear indicator that our economic policies are reaping results.”

According to statistics released today:

  • From July 2005 to July 2006, Florida added 259,800 new jobs, seasonally adjusted.
  • Florida’s July 2006 unemployment rate was 3.3 percent, 1.5 percentage points below the national rate of 4.8 percent.
  • Florida continues to be a national model for the number of new jobs created with an annual job growth rate that is more than twice the national average.

Governor Bush has made diversifying Florida's economy a top priority, placing particular emphasis on fostering the development of emerging technologies.  New measures passed by the Florida Legislature to enhance Florida’s innovation economy include: $50 million for a World Class Scholars Program and a Centers of Excellence program to build and enhance our innovation infrastructure, $45 million to expand Florida’s Quick Action Closing Fund, $43 million to secure Florida’s position as a leader in the Space and Aeronautics industry, and $200 million to create the Florida Innovation Incentive Fund to bring large scale research projects, private sector business or prestigious institutions to our state.

For more information on Florida’s economic development efforts, please visit www.myflorida.com <http://www.myflorida.com>.


FDLE EMAIL FRAUD  ALERT

E-mails to financial institution customers that fraudulently claim to be from the FDIC attempt to obtain highly sensitive personal information, including bank account information. These e-mails falsely indicate that consumers can enroll in an "FDIC protection system" to insure bank accounts against certain types of fraudulent activities.

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) has received numerous notifications from consumers of an e-mail that has the appearance of being sent from the FDIC. The "From" line of the e-mail displays the name "Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation" and the subject includes the phrase "IMPORTANT: Notification of Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation."

The e-mail states that the FDIC received an application. It says, in part:

"…from your bank to ensure your Checking or Savings account against Fraud, phishing or Identity Theft. If u agree with the following, PLEASE ENROLL in the FDIC protection system."

The e-mail is fraudulent and was not sent by the FDIC. It is an attempt to obtain personal financial information from consumers. The e-mail requests that recipients click on a hyperlink that is provided, which directs the recipient to a "spoofed" Web page. The Web page appears to belong to the FDIC and requests information, such as: name, phone number, Social Security number, mother's maiden name, driver's license/issuing state, date of birth, e-mail address, postal address, credit/debit/ATM card number, card expiration date, card verification number, personal identification number (PIN), bank name, bank routing number, and bank account number.

Financial institutions and consumers should NOT access the link provided within the body of the e-mail and should NOT, under any circumstances, provide any personal financial information through this media.

The FDIC is attempting to identify the source of the e-mails and disrupt the transmission. Until this is achieved, consumers are asked to report any similar attempts to obtain this information to the FDIC by sending information to alert@fdic.gov.

Information about counterfeit items, cyber-fraud incidents and other fraudulent activity may be forwarded to the FDIC's Cyber-Fraud and Financial Crimes Section, 550 17th Street, N.W., Room F-4004, Washington, D.C. 20429, or transmitted electronically to alert@fdic.gov. Information related to federal deposit insurance or consumer issues should be submitted to the FDIC using an online form that can be accessed at http://www2.fdic.gov/starsmail/index.asp.

For your reference, FDIC Special Alerts may be accessed from the FDIC's website at www.fdic.gov/news/news/SpecialAlert/2006/index.html. To learn how to automatically receive FDIC Special Alerts through e-mail, please visit www.fdic.gov/about/subscriptions/index.html.


Consumer Services HelpLine (800) 342-2762

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