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Unclaimed Cash Remains a Concern for U.S. States

It’s not a small amount; almost $35 billion of unclaimed cash is waiting to be claimed by American citizens across various states. While the influx of unclaimed money is unabated, the actual reimbursement of this unaccounted money is not taking place at a satisfactory pace. The turnover over of unclaimed cash is hindered by so many factors, mainly the lack of awareness in the state residents. There is widespread concern among the decision makers in the treasury departments of the various states regarding the unclaimed pile of money which is growing rapidly on a daily basis.

Road shows, Community fairs, integrated campaigns, road runs, online websites, newspaper unclaimed money supplements, etc.; all PR tactics have been utilized to reunite the rightful owners with their lost money, but not with a lot of success. A common belief has been established within the state treasury heads that the use of digital promotional tools is far more effective in its reach as compared to the traditional tools of advertising and promotion. This fact is validated by the Great Iowa Treasure hunt which was not very encouraging for the organizers – as confirmed by the Iowa State Deputy Treasurer Karen Austin.

Unclaimed property has recently been a cause of concern for the state treasury. In the fiscal year 2008, Department of Revenue’s Unclaimed Property Section received property worth more than $100 million. This has placed a huge burden for the department, which is very less compared to the $32 billion dollars of unclaimed money in the state treasury. This additional duty of disbursing the unclaimed funds has put an immense pressure on the state machinery – and a permanent solution is nowhere in sight as the actual owners of the unclaimed funds or property have either been deceased or too old to attempt to recover the money.

This logistic nightmare has resulted in over 117 million unaccounted or unclaimed accounts, and this number is growing at a rapid pace. The presence of unclaimed money has always been there but the concern level has increased gradually in the last decade. This is evident in the number of measures and new programs that have been initiated by the different state governments and also the federal agencies.

States like Michigan are so overwhelmed with the unclaimed money pile that they have given the highest priority to returning the unclaimed funds to their actual owners. The Michigan State Treasurer is the administrator of the Uniform Unclaimed Property Act that came into existence on Mar 28, 1996. Since then, the state has left no stone unturned to handover the unclaimed property to the rightful owner. This act concerning unclaimed property provides for the reporting and disposition of unclaimed property, held by any agency or holder.

The State of California is also inundated with this growing pile of unclaimed funds with almost 11.6 million individuals still unaware of their unclaimed cash or property. In response to this unmanageable situation, the state of California has enacted Unclaimed Property Law that requires property holders such as corporations, business associations, financial institutions and insurance companies to annually report and return dormant property to the State Controller’s Office.

It is a consensus amongst the various functionaries of state and federal governments that if this surplus of unclaimed funds and the exponentially increasing pile is not checked with a viable solution, it might become an emergency situation.

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