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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

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