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My Florida C F O
Weekly eNewsletter from Florida's Chief Financial Officer

Welcome to Financial Football:

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Jeff Atwater
Jeff Atwater
Chief Financial Officer
State of Florida

Business Opportunities for Florida

The expansion of the Panama Canal presents a unique opportunity for Florida. In 2014, large cargo vessels will no longer be confined to the Pacific Ocean and will have access to the eastern United States. I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to tour the Port of Miami this past week to see firsthand their preparations for this historic change for Florida. The Deputy Director of the port, Juan Kuryla, briefed me on the current deep dredge project which will allow larger cargo vessels coming from the Panama Canal to enter the port. This means that the amount of cargo that will arrive in Florida will be much larger than ever before. I am glad to see that the Port of Miami is working diligently on this project that will increase trade, business and jobs in Florida. Port expansion will have a ripple effect on various job markets in our great state.

While I was in Miami, I also toured the Miami Free Zone. The Miami Free Zone is a foreign trade zone which services the international trade community of South Florida. Over $1 billion dollars in goods are processed through this trade hub each year and it is one of the largest privately-owned general purpose foreign trade zones in North America. This zone allows businesses and entrepreneurs to operate in an environment free of excessive taxes with minimal bureaucratic involvement. When businesses save money, all Floridians save.

News of Interest

St. Petersburg Times: Florida schools launch "Financial Football"

Florida Current: Workers' comp rate hearing raises larger reform issues

Tampa Tribune: Putting money back in your pocket

NWF Daily News: First $10 million available to Northwest Florida for economic recovery from oil spill

Florida Current: Gainesville moves forward on big biomass plant

Winter Haven News Chief: Legoland has national reach

Tampa Tribune: Costly car-crash racket must be curbed in Florida

Wall Street Journal: A Nobel for Non-Keynesians

Daytona Beach News-Journal: Fix federal spending addiction with a balanced-budget mandate

SFM Bureau First to Earn IAS Accreditation

State Fire Marshal badgeThe Bureau of Fire Prevention, a division of the State of Florida Fire Marshal’s office, is the first department in the nation to achieve Fire Prevention and Life Safety Department Accreditation from the International Accreditation Service (IAS). IAS accreditation verifies that the department has demonstrated technical competence to administer an effective system of code enforcement, fire prevention, life safety programs and other functions of fire marshals’ offices that benefit the communities they serve and is operating at the highest legal, ethical and technical standards.

Free Women's Small Business Workshops

October is Women's Small Business Month, and CFO Atwater, with the launch of his financial education campaign, Your Money Matter$, is providing interactive financial education through a series of Women's Small Business Workshops. The program will address areas of financial concern, with easy-to-understand training and financial education to improve the success of a business.

Any small business owner is welcome to participate in these workshops.

The next workshop will be held in Tampa on Friday, October 21. If you are looking to learn more ways to increase the success of your small business, you will not want to miss this free event! Register now for a workshop near you.

For additional information, visit or call the Consumer Services Helpline at 1-877-My-FL-CFO (1-877-693-5236).

CFO Atwater’s Department Recovers More Than $17 Million for Florida Consumers

Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater announced this week that the Department of Financial Services has taken part in the recovery of more than $17 million so far in 2011. Recoveries include claim payments, premium refunds and restitution for Florida consumers.

The Department of Financial Services’ Division of Consumer Services is available to answer questions and assist consumers in all lines of insurance—including homeowners, health, auto, life and warranties—and received nearly 100,000 calls during the period of July through September and recovered $4.7 million for consumers. The Division of Agent and Agency Services licenses insurance professionals and investigates alleged violations of the Florida Insurance Code—handling an average of 600 cases per month.

“In these challenging economic times, it is more important than ever that we help Floridians keep and protect their hard-earned dollars,” said CFO Atwater. “Our helpline specialists offer detailed answers to consumers' questions, provide valuable information regarding important financial decisions and assist in recovering money and property for Florida consumers.”

The following are examples of how consumers were helped by department staff:

  • A Miami-Dade County homeowner filed a property claim with his insurance carrier. Despite providing all of the documentation requested by the insurer, months passed and his claim remained unpaid. After contacting the Division of Consumer Services for help on his claim, division staff helped the homeowner promptly receive his payment of more than $289,000.

  • A senior couple from The Villages purchased an annuity from an insurance agent who allegedly misrepresented himself and the terms and conditions of the annuity. After being charged a series of fees when the couple attempted to make a withdrawal, they contacted the Division of Agent and Agency Services. The division investigated and subsequently took action against the agent and his license. In addition, the insurance company refunded the couple’s initial investment, plus interest, which totaled $167,000.

  • A Clay County resident experienced substantial damage to his motor home, which was his primary residence. His claim with his insurance company was delayed, leaving him temporarily homeless. He contacted the Division of Consumer Services, and they requested the company immediately review the policyholder’s claim discrepancy. Following the review, the claim was quickly resolved and the homeowner promptly received his payment of more than $124,000.

For assistance with an insurance claim, question or complaint, log on to or call our Consumer Helpline at (850) 413-3089 or toll-free at 1-877-MY-FL-CFO (1-877-693-5236). Consumers can also access online an Insurance Library and numerous consumer brochures, read more about the CFO’s initiatives and verify the license of an insurance agent, agency or company.

CFO and State Fire Marshal Jeff Atwater Recognizes Fire Prevention Week

State Fire Marshal badgeFlorida Chief Financial Officer and State Fire Marshal Jeff Atwater sponsored a resolution this week recognizing Oct. 9 through Oct. 15 as Fire Prevention Week. Out of nearly 60,400 fires reported in Florida last year, more than 59,000 were fires that could have been prevented. Just last year, 40 Floridians died in accidental fires.

“We mourn those Floridians who lost their lives in accidental fires this past year. These tragedies remind us of the importance of protecting our loved ones,” said CFO Atwater. “One of the most important things you can do for the safety of your family is to make sure that you have a fire safety plan in place and that you check your home’s smoke alarms regularly.”

According to the National Fire Prevention Association, in 2009, U.S. fire departments responded to 362,500 home fires. These fires caused 12,650 civilian injuries, 2,565 civilian deaths, and $7.6 billion in direct damage.

The leading causes of home fires are unattended cooking, cooking equipment, heating equipment, smoking materials and candles. Roughly two-thirds of home fire deaths happen in homes with no smoke alarms or smoke alarms that were either broken or had dead batteries.

CFO Atwater recommends that you follow these fire prevention tips:

  • Check your home’s smoke alarms regularly.
  • Develop and practice a home fire escape plan.
  • Install and maintain an automatic home fire sprinkler system.
  • Do not leave food unattended while it is cooking.
  • Ensure that home heating equipment is cleaned and well maintained.
  • Do not leave burning candles unattended.

The 2011 Fire Prevention Week theme is, “It’s Fire Prevention Week. Protect your Family from Fire!” Fire Prevention Week is part of a national campaign that was established to commemorate the Great Chicago Fire, the tragic 1871 conflagration that killed more than 250 people and left 100,000 homeless.

To find out more about the Division of State Fire Marshal and fire prevention practices, please visit