Last week, state Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Jimmy Patronis showcased his record in 2020, noting that his office has helped Florida families and businesses through the COVID-19 pandemic, fought fraud and held scam artists accountable, advocated for Florida’s firefighters and first responders, responded to the hurricane season, provided record-breaking unclaimed property returns to Floridians and advocated for Florida consumers and businesses.
The state CFO’s office listed off the following accomplishments:
Supported Florida Families and Businesses during the COVID-19 Pandemic
- Since February, CFO Patronis worked closely with Florida’s firefighters to assess readiness and ensure access to the tools they needed to protect communities from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Throughout the pandemic, the CFO kept his finger on the pulse of Florida’s economy by advocating for early revenue projections to give lawmakers better insight into the fiscal impacts, working to protect Florida’s AAA Bond rating, and providing transparency to the disbursement of billions in Federal CARES Act funding.
- To protect public servants on the frontlines of COVID-19 response, CFO Patronis immediately directed the Division of Risk Management to provide workers’ compensation coverage to state employees who are fighting COVID-19.
- As a constant advocate for consumers, CFO Patronis urged financial institutions and lenders to step up for Florida homeowners and businesses during the COVID-19 crisis.
- As the licensing of new insurance agents came to a standstill during the pandemic as testing vendors offices shuttered, CFO Patronis issued a directive allowing the Department to process more than 15,300 temporary insurance agent licenses in a manner that promoted job growth and protected Florida’s insurance consumers.
- CFO Patronis’ Division of Accounting and Auditing worked closely with state emergency managers to expedite procurement of vital emergency medical supplies including Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for frontline personnel working to protect communities throughout the pandemic. The State Treasury also recorded more than $72 million in interest to date from prudent investment of federal CARES Act funding.
- The CFO also held more than 30 meetings with local Chambers of Commerce throughout Florida to better understand the impacts of the pandemic to Florida businesses and job creators. CFO Patronis’ top priority in the 2021 Legislative Session is fighting for vital business liability protections for Florida businesses and working with stakeholders to craft legislation that will head-off frivolous lawsuits in order to protect Florida’s economy and get Floridians back to work.
- With COVID-19 impacting Florida businesses’ bottom lines, CFO Patronis applauded a statewide 6.6 percent decrease in workers’ compensation insurance rates and in June, he announced a refund of $27.6 million in workforce premiums back to nearly 13,000 policyholders of the Florida Workers’ Compensation Joint Underwriting Association (FWCJUA), providing further relief for Florida businesses.
Tackled Fraud and Rising Insurance Rates in Florida
- In a relentless effort to fight fraud in Florida, CFO Patronis’ insurance fraud detectives opened 1,200 fraud investigations in 2020 and made more than 300 arrests leading to more than $3 million in court ordered restitution.
- Since CFO Patronis took office in 2017, more than 3,700 arrests have been made in fraud, arson and the misuse of state funds leading to more than $162 million in court ordered restitution. The CFO’s Bureau of Fire, Arson, and Explosives Investigations also conducted more than 2,900 fire & explosives investigations leading to 221 arrests in 2020.
- CFO Patronis fought for vital protections for the estimated 1.5 million veterans in Florida from identity theft and scams. During session, CFO Patronis partnered with legislative leaders to successfully advocate for the passage of the Florida Veteran’s Protection Act and add the victimization of 10 or more veterans as an aggravated white-collar crime.
- The CFO also remained steadfast in fighting to protect consumers genetic data and holding big tech companies like Twitter accountable for cybersecurity and fraud.
Supported Florida’s Firefighters & First Responders
- During the pandemic, CFO Patronis continued to support the over 38,000 career firefighters in Florida by requesting that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) immediately revisit its decision to not classify firefighters as health care personnel and provide them priority access to the COVID-19 vaccine.
- The CFO also encouraged federal emergency management officials to vaccinate frontline utility workers before the start of the 2021 Hurricane Season as they are critical personnel who provide life-saving resources to our communities, especially during perilous emergency situations.
- In a continued effort to protect Florida’s firefighters from cancer, CFO Patronis also fought for the successful passage of the Firefighter Cancer Decontamination Equipment Grant Program, creating a resource within the Department of Financial Services to continue to protect the health of Florida’s firefighters.
Navigated a Historic Hurricane Season and Assisted Florida’s Insurance Consumers
- The 2020 Hurricane Season was the most active hurricane season on record with 30 named storms and 12 making landfall in the U.S. The CFO oversaw the deployment of 5 Urban Search and Rescue (US&R) Teams on missions to assist in recovery following two storms in Florida and Louisiana.
- The CFO continued to support Floridians through his statewide Insurance Consumer Helpline (1-877-MY-FL-CFO). In 2020, insurance specialists answered more than 243,000 total calls and opened more than 18,000 insurance complaints resulting in the recovery of more than $23 million for Florida insurance consumers. Since taking office in 2017, his consumer services staff have handled more than 970,000 calls, opened more than 69,000 insurance complaints and assisted consumers in recovering more than $130 million.
- In an effort to further protect Florida consumers during a challenging year, CFO Patronis successfully urged Citizens Property Insurance Corporation to reverse their decision to cancel homeowner’s insurance policies during the 2020 Hurricane Season.
Returned $357 Million in Unclaimed Property to the Pockets of Floridians
- CFO Patronis’ Division of Unclaimed Property returned unclaimed accounts valued at more than $357 million to Floridians in 2020. Since CFO Patronis took office in 2017, more than $1.1 billion has been returned to Floridians in Unclaimed Property and the Division leads the nation with a 71 percent return ratio. Since the pandemic began in March, the Division returned more than $296 million in unclaimed property while transitioning to working remotely.
- CFO Patronis also announced proactive efforts to streamline the return of millions of dollars in unclaimed property payments to Florida’s local governments by proactively disbursing payments without the need for public entities to search or claim the funds.