By Mike HelenthalOf The Star Courier
Dec 5, 2018 at 9:05 PM
Illinois Treasurer Mike Frerichs was in Kewanee this week touting his office’s new Money Match program.
The program is similar to past unclaimed property programs — except residents who qualify don’t have to fill out a mountain of paperwork to get it.
The program uses existing technology and state records to match unclaimed cash with qualifying Illinois taxpayers. The property must be $2,000 or less in cash with only one owner, an amount stipulated last year by the state legislature.
“The goal is to return more money, more quickly, and without the need of paper, to Illinois taxpayers,” Frerichs said.
Some $12 million is available through the program, with 63,000 notifications sent to eligible recipients starting in September. More than 800,000 accounts were checked for eligibility under the program.
Available funds include unrefunded fees, last paychecks, rebates, unclaimed life insurance and a host of other instances where the state ended up being the holder.
Not included in the data matching effort is cash owned by multiple parties, including a joint holding of a parent and minor child, as well as shares of stock and bonds, bank safe deposit box contents and escrow accounts.
Once a resident receives the notification and the address is confirmed, Frerich’s office will send out a check.
“We’ve eliminated the hassle,” he said.
Frerichs said he is worried people will ignore the notices thinking they might be part of a scam.
“The whole reason I’m here is we’re sending checks,” he told the Star Courier. “We want people to cash them.”
In all, the state holds more than $2 billion in “lost money,” which it is required by law to keep and try to find a rightful owner.
Frerichs said returning the remaining amount is problematic because it is usually a small amount and involves filling out paperwork to prove an applicant is actually the person owed the money.
To see if you are on the list of unclaimed property, simply go the state treasurer’s I-Cash website at https://ift.tt/2gwFMi1.
Frerichs said his office has set records the past three years for returning property to Illinois owners because it has made the program a priority. Last year, $180 million was returned, with close to $150 million returned the two prior years.
He said that the legislature last year also added a law prohibiting companies from holding on to unclaimed money for more than three years.
Frerichs also touted his office’s Secure Choice program, which provides individual employees of companies who don’t participate in a 401k plan to invest for retirement.
He said the program, available for companies of 25 or more employees, is meant to address the growing number of people who haven’t planned for retirement or work at companies who don’t offer automatic withdrawal plans.
Frerichs said that having something deducted pre-paycheck makes even low-income earners more likely to save.
And having a citizenry saving for retirement at all levels is less stressful on the social safety net.
“If we don’t make it easier and (people) don’t save,” he said, “it will cost more for all of us down the road.”
He said the program doesn’t cost the participating employer “a dime.” It simply is registered as another deduction on an employee’s paycheck.
He said the state facilitates the program but it is privately backed. He compared the investment vehicle to a Roth IRA.
Frerichs said his office also hopes to increase awareness about it’s Bright Start college investment program, with he said is not affiliated with the problem-plagued College Illinois program.
He said the new program is only facilitated by the state but is managed by a financial fund manager. It is designed to allow Illinois families to save and take advantage of state and federal tax benefits.
Bright Start has been rated “gold” by Morningstar.
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December 5, 2018 at 09:24PM