My Florida C F O

Dear Fellow Floridians:

More than 600,000 hurricane-related insurance claims have been filed across our state, and I expect that number to climb higher in the days and weeks to come. As we enter the second stage of Irma recovery, we’re focusing on making sure that insurance professionals have the tools they need to adjust and close your claims as efficiently and effectively as possible – helping your family return to normal faster!
Continuing education extension link
To help accelerate recovery efforts across the state, I’ve recently announced that I’m extending the continuing education deadline for insurance professionals, so that they can focus their efforts on post-storm claims rather than completing office work. Licensees with continuing education deadlines in September, October, or November will now have until December 31st to complete their requirements. No form or application process is needed – our team will take care of the paperwork.

Continuing education is important in all professions, and I will ensure that it gets done, but I believe that granting this extension is in the best interest of our state.

Fraud detective badgeAs part of our second stage recovery efforts, we’re also establishing anti-fraud strike teams that will soon deploy across Florida. Comprised of our highly-trained insurance fraud investigators, three teams will work directly in some of Florida’s most heavily hit areas, including Miami and the Florida Keys, Fort Myers and Lehigh Acres, and the Central Florida corridor.

To say it frankly, Florida has been through enough, and I won’t tolerate fraudsters attempting to take advantage of this high-stress time. We’re putting boots on the ground to identify active fraud operations, and to educate communities about how to spot the red flags of fraud. We’ll meet with homeowners and HOA groups directly, and we’ll be partnering with local law enforcement to extend our eyes and ears in each area.

If you’d like to report suspicious behavior, you can contact one of our regional insurance fraud offices, or you can call our anti-fraud hotline at 1-800-378-0445. When you call, provide as much detail as you can so that our investigators can follow up. Jot down business names on the side of trucks you’re seeing, try to remember license plate numbers. If they’re handing out flyers, keep one!

Sincerely,

Jimmy Patronis
Jimmy Patronis
Chief Financial Officer
State of Florida


News of Interest

Bay News 9: Consumer Advocates: Don't let contractors handle insurance claims
As a potentially long and arduous insurance claims process begins for hundreds of thousands of Floridians with property damaged by Hurricane Irma, consumer advocates are warning homeowners against allowing contractors to handle their claims through a relatively obscure process known as assignment of benefits. The scheme involves policyholders signing over the administration of their claims to contractors, who often agree to begin repairs immediately, without first consulting with insurance adjusters. When claims are underpaid or rejected, contractors often hire lawyers to bring suits against the insurer, in the name of the policyholder. Assignment of benefits claims have led to a flood of lawsuits in South Florida in recent years, causing insurance premiums there to rise. A spike of such claims in the wake of Irma could cause a destabilization of the statewide property insurance market, some experts warn.

Tampa Bay Times: Florida has the country's second-best business climate behind its arch-nemesis
Florida ranks as having the second-best business climate in the country, still nipping at the heels of perennial No. 1 Texas. Conducted by Development Counsellors International (DCI) every three years, the survey has tracked economic development trends since its inception in 1996. The latest breakdown was released Monday at the International Economic Development Council (IEDC) Annual Conference in Toronto. Texas had held on to the top spot since 1999. For years. Florida Gov. Rick Scott has jokingly jabbed at a rivalry with fellow Republican-controlled Texas as an arch-rival, pointing out whenever the Sunshine State boasted superiority in job creation or luring companies here. Rounding out the top five were Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina, respectively.

Orlando Sentinel: Hurricane Irma victims could face fight between insurers, contractors
As homeowners in Central Florida and throughout the state assess damage inflicted by Hurricane Irma, many could find themselves in the middle of a tug-of-war between their insurance companies and contractors. More than 452,000 insurance claims worth an estimated $2.7 billion have been filed in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma so far, with more to come. But even before Irma hit, state regulators and insurance companies were warning customers about contractors who might push homeowners to sign contracts to get work done quickly. Such “assignment of benefits” contracts allow the contractor to receive payment from the insurer instead of the homeowner. Insurance companies have complained for years that unscrupulous contractors gouge them for unnecessary repairs or work that is purely cosmetic, using such agreements.

Bradenton Herald: Nursing homes used to Florida regulators’ soft touch scramble to meet a deadline
Florida’s nursing homes and assisted-living facilities find themselves in an unfamiliar place this week — pushing back against Gov. Rick Scott’s administration over new rules that require them to purchase generator capacity by Nov. 15 to keep their residents safe and comfortable in a power outage. With 56 days remaining before the state imposes $1,000-a-day fees, full panic mode has set in on an industry that is more accustomed to dealing with the gentle touch of state regulators and industry-friendly legislators than it is with facing new rules.

Lehigh Acres Citizen: How residents can access FEMA assistance they may need
In the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, it is important for our community to take action to start rebuilding. Here are some helpful tips in getting started. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is a national agency that prepares for and responds to disasters. Residents in Collier and Lee County affected by Hurricane Irma are eligible for disaster assistance and should apply by Nov. 9, which is 60 days from the date of a declaration. - Who's eligible for assistance? Homeowners or renters in a declared area whose essential property has been damaged or destroyed that is not covered by insurance. Those who have insurance are still eligible to receive aid on underinsured or uninsured losses, but should reach out to their insurance agency first. - How can you apply for assistance? There are four ways to register: online at disasterassistance.gov; by phone at 800-621-3362 / TTY 800-462-7585; at a local Emergency Operations Center; or on the FEMA app, which can be downloaded on smart phones. FEMA's phone line is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. You may also contact the Florida Department of Financial Services with your insurance questions at 877-693-5236.

Yahoo! Travel: Florida tourism bounces back after Hurricane Irma
Hurricane Irma pummeled parts of Florida during the weekend of Sept. 9, causing $58 billion to $83 billion in damage, according to Moody’s Analytics. As locals rebuild their lives, the hospitality industry wants to stop tourists from choosing other destinations. Several Florida-based tourism bureaus have introduced marketing initiatives this week in an effort to bring back visitors. Despite the destruction (10,000 homes in Miami-Dade County are still without power), by and large, life in downtown Miami has returned to its usual pace. "When you look back it feels like a long time, but it’s only been 10 days. We are open for business — the airport is open, the seaport is open and the vast majority of hotels [are open]," William Talbert, CEO of Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau (GMCVB) told Yahoo Finance.

Orlando Sentinel: Irma took your job? State offers another short-term solution
More benefits were announced Wednesday for people who lost their job or were dislocated by Hurricane Irma, in the form of temporary jobs that will pay a modest $13 to $15 per hour. The jobs would be with agencies working on storm recovery, such as cleanup and humanitarian aid, or administrative work, for projects that include demolition, cleaning, repair, renovation and reconstruction of damaged structures and facilities. It’s part of the federal government’s dislocated worker grants, and will be administered by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity. Limited unemployment benefits are also available for Irma victims through the state’s Disaster Unemployment Assistance (DUA) Program. As of Friday, the state reported about 250 people had already applied for DUA, but that number was expected to grow.

Palm Beach Post: After Irma: FEMA opens Boynton center as Florida aid tops $106 million
Federal officials said they have approved more than $106 million in government aid to more than 142,000 Florida households within two weeks of Hurricane Irma, and scores more lined up at a recovery center that opened Wednesday in Palm Beach County. Ava Varley of Boynton Beach said she stayed in her car at times while she was without power for a week, in part to get temporary air conditioning for her two-year-old child. Roof damage let in rain, she said as she waited to talk to representatives of the Federal Emergency Management Agency and partner groups. "I need help," she said. "This is the first time we’ve seen FEMA." Beside her, Severina Mejia said her five foster children in Lake Worth were throwing up and showing other ill effects of the heat in a residence also without power for a week. Water damaged beds and other furniture, she said. "I’m hoping at least to get beds for them to sleep on," she said.

CBS News: Rebuilding in Florida's Keys: At What Cost?
Like pioneers in a wagon train, a long line of homeowners has crossed the bridges back down to the Florida Keys, determined to reclaim their homes from the ravages of Hurricane Irma. For most, optimism is riding along. Seeing their wrecked homes is their first dose of reality; the next will be trying to rebuild. They’ll face huge expenses, government regulations that are growing ever more stringent and an often-lengthy process of negotiation with their insurance company to decipher a clause-laden contract that doesn’t always provide what they thought it would. That’s the easy part. Some people are advocating for the opposite, arguing that many homes on these low-lying "barrier islands" — built by nature to absorb a hurricane’s punch and not to pass it along to the mainland — shouldn’t be resurrected.

Scott Fennell Joins DFS as Deputy Chief Financial Officer

CFO Jimmy Patronis on Tuesday announced that Scott Fennell has joined the Department of Financial Services as Deputy Chief Financial Officer over operations. In this capacity, Fennell will oversee the State of Florida’s accounting and auditing responsibilities, as well as the Department’s $299 million-dollar budget. Fennell most recently served as Chief Operating Officer at Enterprise Florida, Inc.

CFO Patronis said, "Scott brings years of experience in managing multi-million dollar budgets to our Department, as well as vast knowledge of state government and the legislative process, making him a valued addition to our team. His skill set will undoubtedly help carry our agency into the future on solid financial footing."

Fennell joins the Department following nearly nine months of service as Enterprise Florida’s Chief Operating Officer, where he was responsible for leading the agency’s organizational and financial operations. Before joining Enterprise Florida, he spent four years at Career Source Florida, Inc., where he served as Chief Financial Officer and Chief Operating Officer. In that role, Fennell was responsible for the success of Florida’s 24 local workforce boards, as well as the agency’s $300 million-dollar budget.

Positions with the Florida Auditor General, the Executive Office of the Governor, and the Florida House of Representatives round out Fennell’s extensive work history.

His first day on the job was Monday, September 25.

CFO speaks to SILACFO Patronis Attends Securities and Insurance Licensing Association’s National Conference

CFO Jimmy Patronis attended the Securities and Insurance Licensing Association’s (SILA) National Conference in Orlando. CFO Patronis joined Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner, John D. Doak, and various other state regulators and insurance professionals during SILA’s 4-day event. While in CFO with SILA participantsattendance, CFO Patronis discussed his role as CFO, disaster recovery and post-storm insurance fraud awareness.SILA members with CFO












Florida Economic Briefs

Florida’s GDP growth led by The Villages
The Villages had the fastest-growing real GDP of any metropolitan area in Florida in 2016 according to recently released data, with a growth rate of 6.0 percent. Tampa-St. Pete-Clearwater grew the fastest out of the large metro areas, with a growth rate of 4.2 percent. Every metro area but 3 grew faster than the national average.
Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis

Median home price holds steady
The median home sales price in Florida remained at $240,000 for the second month in a row in August. This is 6.7 percent higher than the median price 12 months ago. Inventory contracted slightly, down from 4.1 months to 3.8 months.
Source: Florida Realtors Association