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Unclaimed money left by federal government

3:24 AM, Jul 19, 2013   |    comments
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By Leisa Zigman I-Team Reporter

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (KSDK) - It's the five letter word that politicians can't stop whining about: MONEY. But when government wants your money you better pay up, or else.

While government stops at no length to collect your hard earned cash, the I-Team found hundreds of unclaimed government checks piling up in Jefferson City, not earning interest, and not doing any good.

The I-Team began checking Missouri's unclaimed property website and found dozens of federal agencies with hundreds of outstanding accounts.

The Federal Reserve tracks dollars, but apparently can't track its own money. The U.S. Department of Labor has unclaimed money in Missouri but told us it was unaware of the accounts. If they cashed out maybe they could help more people find more jobs?

LINK: Search for unclaimed property in Missouri

Guess which agency had one of the largest numbers of unclaimed funds? The IRS. Several spokesmen for the agency that collects your money had no idea about claiming its own money.

"If we can get them to claim in a more timely manner we would love that," said Scott Harper, director of unclaimed property for Missouri.

Beneath the Truman Building in Jefferson City, down a freshly painted sterile grey hallway, you'll find the state's unclaimed property division.

Reporter: "Why wouldn't the US Department of Treasury come in and sweep more often and put those checks in an account where it can earn interest for the American taxpayer?"

"We would like for them to claim their money because we are in the business of returning as much as we can," said Harper.

According to Harper, some agencies do sweeps once or twice a year. Others, he said, sweep four to five times a year. And there are some agencies letting money sit for more than a year.

LINK: Search for unclaimed property in Illinois

It's not just the federal government failing to collect money in a timely manner. The failing school districts of Normandy and Riverview Gardens had uncollected money. What about cashing out and buying some new books?

While serving as the acting chief money collector for St. Louis County, Eugene Leung got a big surprise. He filed for the first time to claim county funds in March and the county is expected to get a check for $32,000.

Leung said, "It's like found money." The funds will go into general revenue. Now he's checking other county departments and looking for more cash.

"Since I've already done it, I may recommend that I do it for the entire county. I think it's probably a good idea," said Leung.

The state's treasurer's office wants to get rid of all the unclaimed money as quickly as possible. In fiscal year 2013 representatives paid out a record $39.5 million in claims.

Currently, there is $760 million in unclaimed property in Missouri belonging to individuals, businesses, governments, charities, and schools.

In Illinois, there is $1.7 billion. Yes, billion with a giant "B."

Illinois Treasurer Dan Rutherford says checking unclaimed property once a year isn't enough. He says it should be checked every month since new money is always coming in.

Experts suggest not just checking the websites for yourself or your family, but also for your favorite charity or school district, or police department. Who knows? Maybe you'll help uncover a lot of money that could instantly be put to good use.

 

KSDK

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