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.
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. This time of remembrance is the perfect occasion to visit one of the many Holocaust Museums across the state. I had an opportunity last Friday to visit the museum in St. Petersburg –what an incredibly moving experience for me.
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; 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.