Raimondo: Residents may be missing money


Timothy Brosnan wasn't holding his breath.

The likelihood that the 33-year-old Bristol resident had missing money or unclaimed property floating around wasn't high.

"But I gave it a shot, because you never know," said Mr. Brosnan.

In a matter of minutes, Mr. Brosnan was able to search a nationwide database of unclaimed property, courtesy of the state treasury's office, for free.

"I wasn't expecting much, but you never know," he said.

Mr. Brosnan was one of several residents who stopped by an information booth set up by State Treasurer Gina Raimondo and her staff at the Colt State Park farmer's market on Friday. Raimondo's goal through this Smart Money Tour, was to raise awareness of the state's Unclaimed Property Program and the Financial Coaching Corps program. The booth was equipped with computers, enabling an instant search.

By logging on to missingmoney.com, residents can search for money and other assets that are considered lost or abandoned after an owner cannot be located. This includes anything from money or property left in a safety deposit box, homes, savings or checking accounts, stocks, bonds or other financial beneficiary accounts.

"It is my job as the state treasurer to see to it that if there's money out there belonging to our residents, that they get it back," Ms. Raimondo said.

Currently, the State of Rhode Island is holding onto assets worth up to $200 million in an account. Each year, roughly $20,000 to $30,000 of that is claimed, said Patrick Marr, program administrator.

However, the state receives on average, about $330,000 worth of new unclaimed assets each year, he said.

"By law, we cannot keep the money," Mr. Marr said. "There is no statute of limitations on (unclaimed property), so we will hold it until someone claims it."

There is a rule about abandoned property worth $50 or less - the state could keep it after 10 years.

"But that's not something we do," Mr. Marr said.

Last year, the state's program processed 8,294 claims totaling $8,088,522. The largest claim last year was for more than $300,000, which was made up of many properties, payable to a corporation with a number of subsidiaries.

"The largest individual claim was for an estate," said Ashley Gingerella O'Shea, associate director of communication's at the treasurer's office. "It was $142,000 and it was payable to the heirs of a deceased Cranston resident."

Other memorable claims, Ms. O'Shea said, include a woman who told the treasury that "she would have missed a rent payment were it not for finding her unclaimed property," and another was a $100,000 claim paid to local charities through the will of a deceased Rhode Island couple.

Once property is claimed, it is up to the claimant and the IRS to figure out whether taxes need to be paid, Ms. Raimondo said.

Residents with questions or concerns on how to be fiscally responsible were urged to sign up for assistance with the Financial Coaching Corps, which also circulated information Friday. The Corps is a community-based partnership between Ms. Raimondo's office and the Capital Good Fund, a non-profit organization that offers financial coaching and micro loans - an alternative to the "payday loans" business. The partnership operates through the state treasury's Empower RI initiative.

"We will work through whatever issues people have, whether they want to pay off debt, create a savings account for retirement or college, we work with them to find the best plan in ways that also build their credit," said Anne Dickson of the Capital Good Fund.

There is no cost for services when residents sign up or participate through any of Empower RI's events, said Ms. O'Shea.

"The best way to build strong communities is to build strong families," Ms. Raimondo said. "This service is free and confidential. They have the opportunity to sit with someone who is experienced and get information so they can feel more financially secure."


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Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.