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Holocaust Survivor International Wire Transfer Fees

By CFO Jeff Atwater

This recession has been difficult for many of our fellow Floridians. For the elderly who may live on a fixed income it is important for them to be able to keep every penny. According to the Jewish Federations of North America, one-quarter of Holocaust Survivors in the United States are living below the poverty line. The majority of these Holocaust Survivors live alone and are in their 70s, 80s and 90s. The circumstances under which these Survivors live, along with the nature of the challenges they face at their age, require the attention of our fellow Floridians. Jewish agencies and community organizations do a great deal and work tirelessly to help these survivors with their needs. My office has been involved in helping survivors with their Holocaust insurance claims, and has helped a large portion of the 12,000 survivors of the Holocaust living in the state of Florida. As the Chief Financial Officer of this state, I am committed to alleviating the financial burden facing Florida’s Holocaust Survivors.

In March of this year, accompanied by the Consul General of Israel, and leaders of the Jewish community, I announced my Holocaust Survivor Fee Transfer Waiver Program. Holocaust Survivors and their families were being assessed an international wire transfer fee, ranging from $10 to $40 per transaction. This transfer fee amounts to a 10 percent tax on each payment the survivor receives, and it is a significant financial burden considering that vast majority are elderly and rely on these payments to make ends meet.

It is for this reason that I reached out to the leadership of the financial institutions in Florida to ask them to voluntarily waive the wire transfer fee on reparation payments from the German government. As of August we have 23 banks and credit unions in our state who are voluntarily waiving this fee. These financial institutions account for a significant market share in Florida and my office is working hard to get more banks to participate.

This action did not need legislation, committees, or resolutions. This initiative was an exercise in good government working for our fellow Floridians who deserve our respect, dignity and attention.

It is my hope that other states will initiate similar programs. This is why in August I sent a letter to each of the fifty state treasurers, asking them to consider implementing a similar program in their respective states. I look forward to working with my counterparts in other states, and providing guidance and support.

I encourage you to explore MyFloridaCFO.com/FeeWaiver, which includes a list of participating financial institutions in Florida, additional information and contact numbers regarding Holocaust insurance claims, a generic fee waiver form for financial institutions, as well as the Insurance Claims Legislation and the Holocaust Victims Insurance Act.

While nothing we do can ever fully repay those who suffered through the Holocaust, anything we can do to keep money in their pockets is helpful.

I would like to extend my sincere wishes for a happy and sweet New Year to Floridians of the Jewish faith. Rosh Hashanah is a time for joy, renewal, celebrations and counting our blessings. I would also like to wish each of you L'Shanah Tovah and Happy New Year!

Florida's CFO Jeff Atwater serves on the Cabinet for the State of Florida. For his bio and more information on the Florida Department of Financial Services please visit www.myfloridacfo.com

1) http://www.jewishfederations.org/page.aspx?id=51886

Holocaust Survivor Fee Waiver Program

Holocaust Remembrance Day Offers Renewed Opportunities to Help Survivors

By: Jeff Atwater, Florida's Chief Financial Officer, http://www.myfloridacfo.com/

As we remember the atrocities of the Holocaust, we commemorate the bravery of the victims and survivors of one of the darkest hours in human history. In remembrance of those who lost their lives, we must continue to honor those who are still with us today. Efforts to aid this important and cherished group of Floridians—Florida’s Holocaust survivors—must not be forgotten.

This time of remembrance is the perfect occasion to visit one of the many Holocaust Museums across the state. As your Chief Financial Officer, my department monitors European insurance companies conducting business in Florida to assure that recovered Holocaust era insurance claims are handled fairly and equitably. If you are in Tallahassee the week of May 1 through May 6, I hope you will visit our exhibit in the Capitol that helps educate Floridians about Holocaust-era insurance claims and the opportunity to recover unpaid insurance claims that are rightly owed to Holocaust survivors and their families. Through our participation and leadership in this process, Florida Holocaust survivors have received over $13 million in offers on their insurance claims.

Until now, benefits from recovered claims for the estimated 12,500 Florida Holocaust survivors were being assessed an international wire transfer fee ranging from $10 to $40 per transaction. This fee amounts to a 10 percent tax on each payment a survivor receives—a significant financial burden considering that the vast majority of survivors rely on these payments to make ends meet.

This March, I called on the chief executive officers of Florida financial institutions to voluntarily waive wire transfer fees on Holocaust repartition payments. Florida’s financial institutions rose to the occasion; 17 institutions with more than 1,800 branches statewide have already pledged to waive the wire transfer fees for Holocaust survivors. Waiving this fee is a powerful reflection of the willingness of Florida’s financial community to contribute to the wellbeing of this important group of Floridians.

My goal is to have every financial institution in this state pledge to waive the wire transfer fees on Holocaust reparation payments so that not one more survivor would be taxed on the payments they so greatly deserve after suffering such an atrocity. As your CFO, there is nothing I can do that will ever fully repay those who suffered through the Holocaust, but, as we honor them today, I will do all I can to help these survivors keep their money in their pockets, where it belongs.

If you are a Holocaust Survivor and your bank is not participating in the program or you have a Holocaust era insurance claim that you would like to pursue, call the Florida Department of Financial Services toll-free at 1-800-388-4069 or visit www.MyFloridaCFO.com.

Editor’s Note: Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, a statewide elected official and officer of the Florida Cabinet, oversees the Department of Financial Services including the Division of Insurance Fraud. CFO Atwater’s priorities include fighting financial fraud, abuse, and waste in government, reducing government spending and regulatory burdens that chase away businesses, and providing transparency and accountability in spending.