Department of Financial Services highlights achievements in 2021

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) – Florida Chief Financial Officer (CFO) and State Fire Marshal Jimmy Patronis highlighted the 2021 accomplishments of the Department of Financial Services (DFS).

Chief Financial Officer and State Fire Marshal Jimmy Patronis said: “I am proud of the men and women of the department who have made a difference in the lives of Floridians every day. It has been a great year to help people. The last few years have been difficult for a lot of people, but I will always be proud of the men and women in the department who, despite all the challenges, came to work every day to help people. From the Office of the State Fire Marshal that has responded to horrific storms and disasters like Surfside, to our sworn law enforcement officials who crack down on the type of insurance fraud that affects all of our rates, our agency no has never been so strong. We have employees who answer calls every day to hold insurers accountable to policyholders, we have teams of professionals who return hundreds of millions of dollars in unclaimed property to their rightful owners, and we have people who are managing billions of dollars to make sure we are financially accountable to the taxpayer. Year after year, our public servants bring an endless amount of good to communities in Florida, and I will continue to sing their praises as we enter the New Year.

Main Achievements of 2021 – “A Year of Helping People”

Fighting for Florida’s first responders

The CFO worked with the Legislature to successfully double funding for the Florida Cancer Decontamination Grant program from $ 250,000 to $ 500,000. The program provides significant funding to fire districts for the acquisition of equipment to remove carcinogenic carcinogens from equipment used by firefighters. The equipment also serves as protection against pandemics against viruses like COVID-19.

In the face of the Surfside tragedy, the CFO and the State Fire Marshal have deployed mental wellness peer teams [] to support the Florida Urban Search and Rescue (US&R) teams who fought to save lives during the condo collapse.

The CFO fought for prioritize first responders [] once a COVID-19 vaccine was available, but opposing attempts to force vaccines [].

To support the smaller fire districts, the CFO worked with the Legislature to enable volunteers firefighters who were enrolled in the firefighter school [] to continue to serve in their community. Before the law change, they were reportedly prohibited from working in their volunteer teams until they completed their studies.

Supporting Florida Small Businesses

As someone who has spent most of his career in the restaurant industry, CFO Patronis’ top priority during the 2021 legislative session was to pass the vital protections of COVID liability [] for Florida businesses, and the legislation was the first bill enacted by Gov. Ron DeSantis in the 2021 session. This legislation was critical in bringing Florida businesses – which were already working on tight margins due to the pandemic – to reopen without fear of facing frivolous litigation. To bolster grassroots support for small business protection, the CFO hosted six “Rally in Restaurant” events with lawmakers and key stakeholders to highlight the need for liability protections to save jobs in Florida and protect employees.

Additionally, understanding the important need for liability protections for frontline healthcare workers, CFO Patronis also advocated for healthcare liability protections [] during its campaign “Support our health heroes”.

Florida businesses also know reduced rates of insurance against accidents at work [] as the Office of Insurance Regulation approved an insurance rate cut of 4.9%. The decrease applies to new and renewed workers’ compensation insurance policies in effect in Florida as of January 1, 2022.

In response to the shutdown of the Colonial pipeline in the spring, the CFO, who also serves as the state fire marshal, issued a directive [] provide retail gas stations with more flexibility for attendants to help increase gas station efficiency and increase staff. This directive has helped to reduce long queues at petrol stations.

Fight Fraud and Protect Florida Consumers

CFO Patronis continued its mission of fighting fraud and protecting Florida consumers from financial scams and abuse. CFO fraud detectives made 886 arrests for fraud, arson and embezzlement of public funds, with a total of more than $ 11 million in court-ordered restitution.

In order to combat insurance fraud, CFO Patronis worked with the Florida legislature to create two new anti-fraud teams [] exclusively dedicated to fighting homeowners and property insurance fraud in Florida. The new teams consist of 13 people in total, including ten sworn law enforcement detectives in Tampa and Orlando working with federal, state and local partners to investigate property insurance fraud statewide. .

CFO Patronis also pleaded for vital consumer protection legislation [] this year with a bill the governor enacted, which provided the DFS with the authority to authorize balancing companies [] which employ public and independent adjusters, providing the ministry with an important tool in cracking down on fraud that affects consumers and insurance rates.

In addition, a CFO priority bill has been promulgated by the Governor which contributes to the fight against the epidemic of unsolicited telemarketing phone calls [] that plague the telephone lines of Floridians on a daily basis.

CFO Patronis rejected the Biden administration’s proposal to allow the IRS to spy on everyday Floridians’ bank accounts, writing a editorial [] and lead a round table [] on why Florida would not follow this absurd government approach. Due to efforts at the base in Florida and around the country, the IRS ultimately dropped the proposal.

CFO Patronis launched “Be smart scammer [],“A consumer protection initiative to protect the elderly from fraud and scams who were particularly vulnerable as a result of the pandemic. To empower Florida seniors, the videos [] cover topics such as scams, identity theft, annuities and reverse mortgages.

Return hundreds of millions of dollars in assets to their rightful owners

In 2021, Patronis’ CFO’s unclaimed property division referred more than 500,000 accounts to Floridians worth more than $ 353 million, a record for the calendar year. Since CFO Patronis took office in July 2017, the division has returned more than $ 1.5 billion in unclaimed property.

This year CFO Patronis presented the very first in line [] Florida Unclaimed Property Auction, which grossed over $ 899,000, with approximately 59,000 items sold. As part of his Holiday Money Hunt initiative, the CFO organized a Tampa area unclaimed property phone bank, which has brought in more than $ 300,000 to Tampa area residents.

The Ministry’s Holocaust Assistance Program has helped claimants obtain $ 14 million in various financial instruments [] they were entitled to it. The program provides assistance to Holocaust survivors in Florida seeking to recover proceeds from insurance policies issued to Holocaust victims and the return of bank accounts, artwork and property confiscated by the Nazis . Since the inception of the program, the total monetary recoveries and aid recovered through the Holocaust Victims Assistance Program have reached more than $ 77 million.

Protect Florida Tax Dollars

Florida’s AAA bond rating reaffirmed by all three major rating agencies Moody’s Investors Service, Fitch Ratings [] and Global S&P [].

Under the direction of the Chief Financial Officer, the Florida Treasury Division [] earned over $ 553.6 million in interest in fiscal year 2020-2021, which began July 1, 2020 and ended June 30, 2021. Since Chief Financial Officer Patronis took office in 2017, the Treasury Division earned more than $ 2.4 billion in interest.

CFO Patronis successfully advocated for the installation of legislation supplier transparency measures [] in the state supply system and fight against the influence of foreign governments, including the Chinese Communist Party. The legislation was enacted by the governor.

Following their boycott of Israel, CFO Patronis supported adding [] from Ben & Jerry’s and its parent company, Unilever, PLC, to the list of companies scrutinized for their brazen refusal to do business in Israel. The CFO has long been a steadfast supporter of support for Israel, Florida’s economic partner and the United States’ only ally in the Middle East.

Recently, the CFO also took steps to limit the state’s financial exposure to Communist China [] by joining Governor Ron DeSantis and Attorney General Ashley Moody in voting to investigate investments made by the State Board of Directors (SBA) in Chinese state interests. The trustees also voted to revoke the proxy voting for fund managers who invest Florida retirement money in companies focused on factors other than good returns. They also voted to reaffirm the SBA’s responsibility in supporting plan participants.

Stephen V. Lee