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).
State Chief Financial Officer and Fire Marshal Jimmy Patronis said: “I am proud of the men and women of the Department who have made life better for everyday Floridians. It was a great year to help people. The last few years have been difficult for many people, but I will always be proud of the men and women of the department who, despite all the challenges, came to work every day to help people. From the state fire marshal’s office who 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 has never been stronger. We have employees who field 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 ensure that we are fiscally responsible to the taxpayer. Year after year, there is an endless amount of good that our servants provide to Florida communities, and I will continue to sing their praises as we enter the new year.
Key Achievements of 2021 – “A Year of Helping People”
Fighting for Florida 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 cancer-causing carcinogens from gear used by firefighters. The equipment also serves as pandemic protection against viruses like COVID-19.
In the face of the Surfside tragedy, the CFO and State Fire Marshal deployed mental wellness peer teams [myfloridacfo.com] 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 [myfloridacfo.com] once a COVID-19 vaccine was available, but opposed attempts to impose vaccines [myfloridacfo.com].
To support small fire districts, the Director of Finance has worked with the Legislative Assembly to allow volunteers firefighters enrolled in the fire school [myfloridacfo.com] continue to serve in their communities. Before the law change, they would have been prohibited from working in their volunteer teams until they had completed their studies.
Supporting Florida Small Businesses
As someone who has spent most of his career in the restaurant industry, CFO Patronis’ top priority in the 2021 legislative session was to pass vital COVID liability protections [myfloridacfo.com] for Florida businesses, and the legislation was the first bill signed into law by Governor Ron DeSantis in the 2021 session. the pandemic – to reopen without fear of facing frivolous litigation. To build grassroots support for protecting small businesses, the CFO hosted six “Rally at the 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 significant need for liability protections for frontline healthcare workers, CFO Patronis has also advocated for healthcare liability protections [myfloridacfo.com] during its “Supporting our Healthcare Heroes” campaign.
Florida businesses are also experiencing reduction in workers’ compensation insurance rates [floir.com] as the Office of Insurance Regulation approved a 4.9% cut in insurance rates. The decrease applies to new and renewed workers’ compensation policies in effect in Florida on or after January 1, 2022.
In response to the Colonial Pipeline shutdown in the spring, the CFO, who also serves as the state fire marshal, issued a directive [myfloridacfo.com] 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 service stations.
Florida Fraud and Consumer Protection
Chief Financial Officer Patronis continued its mission to fight fraud and protect Florida consumers from scams and financial 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 an effort to combat insurance fraud, CFO Patronis worked with the Florida Legislature to create two new anti-fraud teams [myfloridacfo.com] solely dedicated to fighting homeowners and property insurance fraud in Florida. The new teams are made up of 13 people 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 argued for vital consumer protection legislation [myfloridacfo.com] this year with a bill that the governor signed into law, which provided DFS with the power to grant licenses to adjustment companies [myfloridacfo.com] which employ both public and independent adjusters, providing the department with an important tool to crack down on fraud that affects consumers and insurance rates.
In addition, a priority CFO bill has been signed into law by the Governor that helps combat the epidemic of unsolicited telemarketing phone calls [myfloridacfo.com] that plague the telephone lines of Floridians daily.
CFO Patronis pushed back against the Biden administration’s proposal to allow the IRS to spy on the bank accounts of ordinary Floridians, writing a editorial [floridapolitics.com] and organize a round table [myfloridacfo.com] on why Florida would not comply with this absurd government excess. Due to grassroots effort in Florida and around the country, the IRS eventually dropped the proposal.
CFO Patronis launched “Be smart about scam [myfloridacfo.com],” a consumer protection initiative aimed at protecting older people from fraud and scams who were particularly vulnerable due to the pandemic. To empower Florida seniors, the videos [myfloridacfo.com] cover topics such as scams, identity theft, annuities and reverse mortgages.
Returning Hundreds of Millions of Dollars of Assets to Rightful Owners
In 2021, CFO Patronis’ Unclaimed Property Division returned more than 500,000 accounts to Floridians worth more than $353 million, a calendar year record. Since CFO Patronis took office in July 2017, the division has returned more than $1.5 billion in unclaimed property.
This year, CFO Patronis provided the first-ever in line [myfloridacfo.com] Florida unclaimed property auction that raised over $899,000, with approximately 59,000 items sold. As part of his Holiday Money Hunt initiative, the CFO organized an unclaimed property phone bank in the Tampa area, which raised more than $300,000 for Tampa-area residents.
The Department’s Holocaust Victims Assistance Program helped claimants obtain $14 million in various financial instruments [myfloridacfo.com] they were entitled. The program provides assistance to Holocaust survivors in Florida seeking to recover proceeds of insurance policies issued to Holocaust victims and the return of bank accounts, artwork and property confiscated by the Nazis . Since the program’s inception, total monetary recoveries and assistance recovered through the Holocaust Victims Assistance Program amount to more than $77 million.
Protect Florida Taxes
Florida bond’s AAA rating reaffirmed by all three major rating agencies Moody’s Investors Service, Fitch Ratings [myfloridacfo.com] and S&P Global [myfloridacfo.com].
Under the direction of the Chief Financial Officer, the Florida Division of Treasury [myfloridacfo.com] earned more than $553.6 million in interest in fiscal year 2020-21, which began July 1, 2020 and ended June 30, 2021. Since Chief Financial Officer Patronis took office in 2017, the Treasury Division earned over $2.4 billion in interest.
CFO Patronis successfully advocated for legislation to install supplier transparency measures [myfloridacfo.com] in the state supply system and to fight against the influence of foreign governments, including the Chinese Communist Party. The legislation was signed into law by the Governor.
Following their boycott of Israel, CFO Patronis supported the addition [myfloridacfo.com] of Ben & Jerry’s and its parent company, Unilever, PLC, to the list of scrutinized companies for their brazen refusal to do business in Israel. The CFO has long been a constant advocate for 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 [myfloridacfo.com] joining Governor Ron DeSantis and Attorney General Ashley Moody in voting for an investigation where investments were made by the State Board of Administration (SBA) in the interests of the Chinese state. Trustees also voted to revoke proxy voting from 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 to support plan participants.