During my time on the Commerce Committee, I have seen a lot of issues pass my desk that can make a real difference to consumers. Ongoing efforts for insurance fraud reform could save Minnesotans millions of dollars, and of course the ongoing debate on Sunday liquor sales has made headlines each year it gathers more and more votes on its way to the Governor’s desk.
While those topics are complicated or controversial, however, nothing has unified constituents and elected officials from both parties like the Department of Commerce’s efforts to reunite owners with their property. Minnesotans are often surprised at the amount of property being held by the state until its owners can be located. According to the Department of Commerce, the amount of funds being held by the State is sitting at a record $711.5 million, triple what it was a decade ago.
Property is given to the state to hold for any number of reasons; it most often happens because someone changes their address or their last name and financial institutions or companies aren’t able to track down the right person. Sometimes, money doesn’t get forwarded on to the right person because of a simple misspelling in their name. This money could take the form of a rent deposit that wasn’t returned, annuities payments that didn’t get forwarded to a new address, or a refund on a utility bill that was sent to the incorrect address. Amounts range from a few dollars to tens of thousands, and people who discover what they are owed often describe it as “winning the lottery,” except that in this case, the money was theirs all along.
I encourage everyone to search for themselves, family members, and friends to see if they unknowingly have funds owed to them. Minnesotans can simply go to www.missingmoney.com to start a free search for property that might belong to them. Names and addresses can be searched, and if a name matches a current or previous address, that person should contact the Department of Commerce.
While the Department does an excellent job in many ways, efforts to raise awareness or hire new staff to directly connect Minnesotans with their property have been unsuccessful due to budget constraints. Without staff to track down rightful owners, the account has been growing steadily for years. This kind of outreach is exactly what our state government should be doing. In the coming session, I will work hard to secure funding for the Department so they can do what’s right for Minnesotans. In the meantime, please help me spread the word among your friends and neighbors about the Department’s fund and our state’s need to do better for those Minnesotans who have been separated from their property.