FLORIDA CHIEF FINANCIAL OFFICER
ALEX SINK'S WEEKLY NEWSLETTER

Volume 5, Number 33, August 15, 2008

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Fellow Floridians:

It is only the second week of August, and already we have some tropical disturbances in the Western Caribbean that could threaten Florida as early as next week. The closest storm is currently moving westward, and you can monitor its movement by visiting www.weather.gov or www.floridadisaster.org. If the system remains intact and continues along its current path, it could reach the Keys or Gulf Coast next Monday or Tuesday.

As Floridians, we are all too familiar with natural disasters, and these storms are a valuable reminder about the importance of being prepared. From stocking food and other supplies to updating your disaster plan to ensuring you are financially prepared, please take some time this weekend to make certain you are ready.

For additional information about creating or updating your disaster plan, please visit www.floridadisaster.org. For information about creating or updating your financial plan, please click on the Tool Kit.

You can also contact our consumer services helpline Monday through Friday at 1-877-MY-FL-CFO.


CFO SINK CREATES “FINANCIAL ACTION TEAM”
Broad coalition will identify funds available from federal foreclosure assistance legislation

In an effort to increase the amount of aid to Floridians facing economic crisis, Chief Financial Officer Alex Sinkannounced she has created a “Financial Action Team” to identify federal assistance available to our state. Comprised of a broad array of financial and housing stakeholders, CFO Sink’s Financial Action Team will analyze the recently passed Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008 to maximize Florida’s share of the billions in available federal dollars to help taxpayers weather a range of economic challenges.

“We are facing an economic and housing crisis, and the federal government has made billions of dollars in assistance available to benefit homeowners,” said CFO Sink, who oversees the Department of Financial Services. “As Florida’s Chief Financial Officer representing a state with one of the highest rates of foreclosure and numbers of lost jobs, I want to make sure our taxpayers get their fair share of help.” 

RealtyTrac's July 2008 U.S. Foreclosure Market Report stated that Florida had the second highest number of foreclosures in the nation, posting 45,884 foreclosures in July 2008—a 14 percent increase from the previous month. Florida’s foreclosure rate was the third-highest in the country, with one foreclosure for every 186 households.

The Agency for Workforce Innovation (AWI) Friday reported a 6.1 percent unemployed rate, the highest since January 1995. Florida lost 96,800 jobs during the previous year, and has reported negative growth over the previous year since September 2007, which AWI attributes to a decline in construction.

These economic challenges are compounded when Florida’s taxpayers aren’t receiving their fair share of benefits. According to TaxWatch, Florida has lost billions in federal funding due to a failure to identify, document and leverage these resources.

“The value of educating citizens, businesses and government officials on what federal funds, tax incentives and services are available to Florida under the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008 cannot be overstated,” said Dominic Calabro, President and Chief Executive Officer of Florida TaxWatch. “Florida TaxWatch is proud to work with CFO Sink on this crucial effort, and I believe the Financial Action Team will improve taxpayer value and ensure the safety and prosperity of countless Floridians.”

The Financial Action Team will hold its first meeting in early September, and in preparation for the meeting, members are expected to evaluate the Housing and Economic Recovery Act from their stakeholders’ perspective and report on the benefits available to Floridians. Members will also identify and report on the process by which a citizen can apply for and receive these federal benefits. The Financial Action Team will reconvene in late September to develop thorough outreach efforts to educate Floridians about the federal benefits for which they are eligible.

CFO Sink’s Financial Action Team includes representatives from the following organizations:

• Florida Bankers Association
• Florida Credit Union League
• Florida Housing Finance Corporation
• Florida Association of Realtors
• Florida Legal Services
• Florida League of Cities
• Florida Association of Counties
• Department of Veterans’ Affairs
• City of West Palm Beach
• Florida Tax Watch
• Florida Association of Mortgage Brokers
• Department of Financial Services

All meetings of the Financial Action Team will be announced and open to the public.


REP. AUSLEY APPOINTED CHAIR OF HEALTHY KIDS BOARD BY CFO SINK
Ausley is a statewide champion for children’s issues

Calling upon one of the state’s leading children’s advocates, Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink today announced she has appointed State Representative Loranne Ausley to serve as the Chair of the Healthy Kids Board, effective after her fourth legislative term.

During her first 20 months in office, CFO Sink personally served as the Healthy Kids Board Chair, successfully navigating the Florida Healthy Kids Corporation through its first leadership change and identifying measures to streamline the program and make it easier for Florida’s families to purchase children’s health insurance.

“I’m proud today to appoint an accomplished public servant with a passion for improving the lives of Florida’s children,” said CFO Sink, who oversees the Department of Financial Services. “With Loranne leading the Healthy Kids Board and helping improve the Healthy Kids program, Florida’s families have a strong advocate at their side.”

“What an honor to be able to serve the children of Florida in such a critical role as we work to ensure that all children in Florida have access to affordable health care,” said Rep. Ausley. “The KidCare program is one of the best ways to ensure that hard working families can provide health insurance for their children. As Chair, I will continue to work with the Board, the Legislature, advocates and partners to make the process easier for families, and to make sure that we are maximizing our draw down of federal dollars.”

The Florida Healthy Kids program is a public-private partnership that allows Florida’s families to purchase health insurance for their children. Florida Healthy Kids is a component of the larger Florida KidCare program, which serves nearly 1.4 million children.
Approximately 250,000 children are enrolled in Florida Healthy Kids, and their coverage includes regular doctor visits, dental check-ups and immunizations. For more information about enrollment in Florida KidCare, visit www.floridakidcare.org  to apply on-line or call 1-888-540-5437 to receive an application by mail.


CFO SINK HONORS MY SAFE FLORIDA HOME WITH A CABINET RESOLUTION

The My Safe Florida Home (MSFH) program was created in 2006 by the Florida Legislature to assist Floridians in strengthening their homes against hurricane damage through free wind inspections and grants up to $5,000. Last year, the Legislature set a goal for the MSFH program to perform 400,000 free wind inspections for eligible homeowners.

As of August 1, 2008, more than 400,000 homeowners have applied for a free wind inspection in order to learn what they can do to harden their homes against storm damage and how to save money on their wind insurance premiums.

To date, the MSFH program, including local government and non-profits, has approved grants for approximately 38,889 homeowners and has paid 18,465 grants to homeowners totaling more than $62.9 million. Sixty percent of homeowners statewide who received a free wind inspection are eligible for an average savings of $220 on their wind insurance premiums

R E S O L U T I O N

             WHEREAS, during the 2004 and 2005 hurricane seasons, Florida was ravaged by eight named storms causing more than $38 billion of insured damage to homes and property; and 

            WHEREAS, in response to these catastrophic losses, the My Safe Florida Home (MSFH) program was created in 2006 by the Florida Legislature to assist Floridians in strengthening their homes against hurricane damage through free wind inspections and grants up to $5,000; and  

            WHEREAS, in 2007, the Legislature set a goal for the MSFH program to perform 400,000 free wind inspections for eligible homeowners; and  

            WHEREAS, as of August 1, 2008, more than 400,000 homeowners have applied for a free wind inspection in order to learn what they can do to harden their homes against storm damage and how to save money on their wind insurance premiums; and  

WHEREAS, sixty percent of homeowners statewide who received a free wind inspection are eligible for an average savings of $220 on their wind insurance; and  

            WHEREAS, today, the MSFH program, including local government and non-profits, has performed 360,337 inspections totaling $54 million, approved $152 million in grants for approximately 37,592 homeowners and paid 19,364 grants to homeowners totaling more than $67 million.  

            NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Governor and Cabinet of the State of Florida do hereby recognize the 

MY  SAFE  FLORIDA  HOME   

program in the State of Florida and commend the program for their dedication and perseverance on behalf of the citizens of Florida.

             BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Governor and Cabinet of the State of Florida do hereby encourage her citizens to be proactive in the protection of their homes, lives and property during hurricane season. 

IN TESTIMONY WHEREOF the Governor and Cabinet of the State of Florida have hereunto subscribed their names and have caused the Official Seal of the State of Florida to be hereunto affixed in the City of Tallahassee on this 12th day of August, 2008. 


CFO SINK WELCOMES NEW DEPUTY CHIEF FINANCIAL OFFICER BRIAN LONDON

Brian London has been appointed Deputy Chief Financial Officer for the Florida Department of Financial Services. Brian's responsibilities will include oversight of the Divisions of Insurance Fraud, State Fire Marshal, and Workers' Compensation.

An experienced law enforcement professional, Brian most recently served as the Executive Director and Chief Financial Officer of INTERPOL. With more than twenty-five years in law enforcement and management roles, Brian has also served with U.S. Customs Service (Homeland Security), the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, the U.S. Secret Service, and the Central Intelligence Agency. He received a Master’s degree in National Security Strategy from the National Defense University and a Master’s in Human Resource Management from Pepperdine University. He also holds a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Claremont McKenna College.


R. JAI HOWARD PROMOTED BY CFO SINK

R. Jai Howard has been promoted to serve as Director of Appointments for the Office of Boards, Commissions and Residual Markets in CFO Sink's office. In that role, R. Jai will work  to coordinate appointments to various Boards and Commissions under the CFO's purview and represent the CFO at meetings. R. Jai holds a Master of Public Health degree from Florida A & M University and also earned her B.S. in Biology from FAMU. She previously has served as Special Assistant to the Chief of Staff and as Staff Director to the Financial Literacy Council, a role in which she will continue.


My Family CFO
Are you the chief financial officer of your family? Are you always looking out for the best deals, wise investments and smart moves for your family's financial security?

As your family's fiscal watch dog, keep an eye on this column for money-smart ideas from the Chief Financial Officer of Florida, Alex Sink.

IDEA: STAY HEALTHY TO SAVE MONEY

A healthy lifestyle can reduce the likelihood of getting many common illnesses, reducing the need for medical care. Eating right, staying physically active, and not smoking are a few good examples.

A few more tips to help stay healthy:

  • Stay hydrated: To function at its best, your body needs a regular supply of water.
  • Exercise: Staying fit improves energy, immune function, sleep and concentration, and contributes to weight loss.
  • Get enough rest: Rest is equally as important as exercise for maintaining a healthy body and mind.
  • Relax: Over two-thirds of doctor's office visits are for stress-related illness.
  • Challenge your mind: Good concentration and focus enable you to react faster, make better choices and feel better about yourself.
  • Eat fresh food: Cut down boxed, bagged, or canned and go for fresh foods – especially vegetables, fruits, and nuts. Locally grown can be beneficial, also.

SINK ORDERS EXTERNAL AUDIT OF ACCOUNTING & AUDITING

In a continuing effort to improve safeguards over public funds, Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink announced she has engaged Deloitte & Touche LLP, to review procedures surrounding electronic payments and transfers within the Division of Accounting and Auditing.

“Prudent financial management requires frequently updating processes to make sure we have appropriate protections in place,” said CFO Sink, who oversees the Department of Financial Services. “Just like Floridians have to be wary of today’s more sophisticated criminals, state government needs to stay one step ahead by tightening protocols to better safeguard public funds.”


NEW RECEIVERSHIP DATABASE PROVIDES TRANSPARENCY, ACCOUNTABILITY

The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) announced the public release of its Global Receivership Information Database (GRID).

“Over the years, state insurance regulators have worked diligently to ensure transparency and accountability with regard to receivership activity,” said Iowa Insurance Commissioner Susan Voss, who chairs the NAIC Receivership and Insolvency Task Force. “GRID provides a national clearinghouse for receivership information, allowing us to better understand and disclose information regarding this complex process.”

Information from more than 1,200 receiverships, provided by state insurance departments in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, are housed within GRID. This includes such information as receivership contact information, relevant court orders and docket numbers, ongoing tasks, distribution of assets, claims-liability details, business activity and deposits.

“State regulators must step in when insurers are unable to fulfill their promises to policyholders. Our main priority is to provide the appropriate oversight and controls necessary to ensure the fair and efficient distribution of the insurer’s remaining assets,” said Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink, whose state was one of the first jurisdictions to completely populate GRID with all of the historical data on their past receiverships. “Future improvements to the database will be released in spring 2009, providing annual balance sheet information of active receiverships within GRID to offer even better transparency for consumers.”

GRID can be accessed via the NAIC’s Consumer Information Source (CIS) Web site at www.naic.org/cis. The CIS database provides several basic types of information on insurance companies, including complaint statistics, licensing details and key financial data.

The NAIC Receivership and Insolvency Task Force is charged with overseeing the maintenance and development of enhancements to GRID. For more information, visit www.naic.org/committees_e_receivership.htm.

Additional receivership data (and other state-specific insurance statistics) can be found in the NAIC Insurance Department Resources Report. To order online, visit the NAIC Store at www.naic.org/store_home.htm.


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