CT is sending “unclaimed” money to record numbers of residents
Nearly 73,000 people successfully recovered funds from Connecticut’s Unclaimed Property Program during fiscal year 2023 as the state broke its record for returning uncashed checks, misplaced refunds and forgotten insurance policies to their rightful owners.
Connecticut State Treasurer Eric Russell, who oversees millions of dollars in unclaimed property the state collects each year, said his office was able to reunite a record number of people with their money thanks to his staff automatically mailing checks for the first time in United State. Program history.
“I am very pleased with the progress we have made so far this year to modernize the unclaimed property system and streamline claims processing,” Russell said. “It’s been hard work for our team but it’s worth it.”
The 72,981 people who got their money back over the past fiscal year are a significant improvement for the program, which traditionally required individuals to locate their lost assets on a state website, known as CT’s Big List, and file a formal claim with the treasurer. office.
During each of the past 23 years, this process has resulted in an average of fewer than 16,000 people successfully getting their money back from the state.
The Connecticut Mirror published a story in early 2022 that highlighted how the unclaimed estate program returned less than 37% of the money it required banks, utilities, insurance companies and other financial institutions to turn over to the state over two decades.
This investigation also revealed that the Treasurer’s Office failed to disclose millions of checks, refunds, and other assets that were worth less than $50 on CT’s large list, making it impossible for people to know that the state was in possession of their money.
As a result of this report, state officials sought to reform parts of the program to make it easier to identify and recover their funds.
Sean Wooden, who served as treasurer until 2022, dropped the requirement to document every claim filed with the state, and state lawmakers changed the law to require every piece of unclaimed property to be added to CT’s bulk list, regardless of its value. Of those assets.
The Legislature also gave the Treasurer’s Office the power to automatically return any assets worth less than $2,500 — if the state can confirm the identity and addresses of the rightful owners.
This was a major change and brought Connecticut in line with a growing number of states that were automatically issuing checks to people on unclaimed property lists.
But several people, including Wooden, pointed out that the legal change wouldn’t do much in practice without lawmakers also giving the treasurer’s staff access to state tax records and other existing government data that could help them locate people.
Lawmakers over the past two sessions have refused to pass bills that would ensure the treasurer’s office has access to this kind of detailed information.
But Russell, the current treasurer, said that hasn’t stopped his team from finding other ways to verify the owners of unclaimed property valued at less than $2,500 and determine the current addresses of those individuals.
He said the treasurer’s office used LexisNexis, a company that maintains a variety of information about individuals and organizations, to verify people’s names, addresses and other personal information such as Social Security numbers or taxpayer identification numbers.
“In early June, we were able to get the first batches of automatic payments up and running,” Russell said. “Many internal processes had to be modified to make this happen, and a lot of testing and prep work was done by the unclaimed property team. But it allowed us to send thousands of unclaimed property checks to their owners without the need for paperwork.” Material on their property. End.”
The treasurer’s office also collaborated with the state Department of Social Services to identify people with unclaimed property who also owed child support, Russell said. They then used that unclaimed money to cover portions of the delinquent child support.
By automating these processes, the Treasurer’s Office has been able to focus more of its resources on helping people filing claims for unclaimed property valued at more than $2,500 and in situations where ownership of unclaimed funds is more difficult to resolve, Russell said.
“We are excited about the progress made so far and look forward to building on it to further modernize the unclaimed property system and simplify the process of returning funds to their rightful owners,” Russell said.
The number of people who took advantage of the unclaimed property program last year is one statistic. But it’s not the only measure by which the treasurer’s office judges itself.
The office also monitors how much unclaimed money it returns to people each year, and when it comes to that number, there has been less progress.
The Unclaimed Property Program’s most recent annual report shows the state returned nearly $72 million during fiscal year 2023. That’s a big number, but it still represents less than 40% of the roughly $188 million the state took home last year.
That number shows there’s still more room for improvement, said Ron Lisi, a Connecticut resident who has waged a public campaign to reform the state’s unclaimed property program, including encouraging state lawmakers to introduce new legislation.
Lizzi realized that not all funds can be returned because in many cases there is not enough information included with each asset to find the real owner.
However, Lizzy believes the program should be able to return a larger portion of the money it has, considering the state currently maintains a website that lists an estimated 9.9 million owners and $1.4 billion in unclaimed property that has accumulated. For decades.
Lizzie helped persuade a bipartisan group of lawmakers on the Legislature’s Government Administration and Elections Committee to introduce a bill related to the unclaimed property program during the 2023 session.
This bill would have required the treasurer to include more specific details about each piece of unclaimed property on the CT Large List. It would have allowed data to be shared between the Treasurer’s Office and the state Department of Revenue Services. It would have increased automatic payments for assets up to $5,000.
However, this legislation was not approved by the House or Senate.
“More reform is needed, and I will continue to suggest and push for it,” said Lizzie, who lives in Bethany.