FILE - Money

(The Center Square) – Nearly one in 10 Missourians who filed for unemployment since October received an average of $300 in unclaimed property belonging to them.

Missouri Treasurer Scott Fitzpatrick announced earlier this week approximately 21,000 people who applied for unemployment benefits received $6,073,711.67 in unclaimed cash. The average claim was approximately $300.

Fitzpatrick’s office and the Missouri Department of Labor and Industrial Relations’ (DOLIR) Division of Employment Security began to cross reference unemployment applications with data from Missouri’s unclaimed property database. When a prospective owner of the unclaimed assets was identified, they were notified by postcard, email or phone call and invited to submit a claim. During the first week of the project in October, the Treasurer contacted 88,000 Missourians and 2,300 reclaimed $186,000. More than 260,000 emails and postcards were sent and almost 21,000 claims were processed since the project started.

“This partnership is an example of good government and demonstrates what can be accomplished when agencies work together to better serve Missourians,” Fitzpatrick said in a statement. “Unclaimed property is often unclaimed because the owner does not know they have it. Being able to return this money to Missourians at a time when they need it most is gratifying. As always, I am grateful to DOLIR for its partnership in this and to my staff who make this happen every day.”

The unclaimed property is primarily cash from bank accounts, stocks, bonds and contents of abandoned safe deposit boxes. Uncollected insurance policy proceeds, government refunds, utility deposits and wages from past jobs also must be turned over to the treasure under state law. Approximately $1 billion in unclaimed assets in more than five million account names are managed by the treasurer.

Anna Hui, director of DOLIR, said the program is a good example of two government agencies working together to serve Missourians.

“This collaboration between DOLIR and Treasurer Fitzpatrick is the way our state government should operate,” Hui said in a statement. “Connecting unemployment recipients with their unclaimed property is a simple, common-sense joint effort that continues to yield great results. We best serve Missourians by working better together.”

In 2019, Fitzpatrick and the Department of Social Services (DSS) worked together to create a process using unclaimed property to pay past-due child support. Past-due child support cases were matched against the unclaimed property database. If a match was found, it generated an automated property attachment and transmission of payment to DSS before a parent owing support could claim it. About $2 million was applied to 18,724 child support cases, including one case where $28,000 was collected from a parent with past-due support.

Fitzpatrick, a Republican running for state auditor, set a record for the amount of unclaimed property returned in one fiscal year when $45,083,224 was returned in 2019.

Staff Reporter

Joe Mueller covers Missouri for The Center Square. After seven years of reporting for daily newspapers in Illinois and Missouri, he spent the next 30 years in public relations serving non-profit organizations and as a strategic communications consultant.