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That’s right – the government may have free money for you

Of the Keizertimes

Need some cash to pay off the holidays?

To turn a Ronald Reagan phrase on its head, the government might actually be here to help.

The state’s Unclaimed Property division is holding cash, securities and other items for more than two million people, its manager said. The average amount is about $250.

“We figured you have between a 1 in 3 and one in 7 chance of finding property,” said Patrick Tate, manager of the Unclaimed Property division. “The amounts are generally small. We do get a few that are $100,000 or greater, but the vast majority are less than $500.

“You’re not going to be able to quit work and do something else, but it’s your money. That’s the main point.”

We looked up a few prominent Keizer citizens and organizations, and this is what we found:

• John Honey, McNary High School principal: Check proceeds with a value less than $50.

• Lore Christopher, mayor of Keizer: Two entries, both under $50.

• Keizer Grange: Proceeds from a savings account worth more than $50.

• Keizer Rotary Club: Accounts payable, worth more than $50.

• Bill Post, KYKN radio host: Refund due worth less than $50.

When we contacted Post, he said he knew about it, but found the hassle too time consuming.

“I swear I put in for it, but … it was under $50 and it was, gosh, whatever,” Post said. “It’s a long process. You had to fill out this tedious paperwork, show documentation and I finally decided, ‘Eh.’”

Tate is hoping recent changes will streamline the process. The website said claims take 60 to 90 days to process, but he hopes to get that number closer to 30. Until the beginning of 2010, a notarized signature was required for all claims. Tate said the new rules allow claims under $100 without a notarized signature, but photocopies of ID are required in all circumstances.

The money comes from all sorts of places, Tate said, including abandoned savings accounts and final paychecks.

“We assume lots of times it’s a last paycheck where they were moving on and don’t realize they still have one last one coming, and they haven’t updated their address with their employer when they leave,” Tate said. “We get credit balances where someone takes an item back and gets store credit, or overpaid a credit card balance.”

Other times, a person may die and their heirs don’t know about an account with money in it. And sometimes people abandon safety deposit boxes at banks, and funds make their way back to the state.

“We’re seeing ones where they set up an account for their child for college or whatever purpose, no one’s kinda monitoring it, the child grows up … and then that account is just sitting out there,” Tate said.

In Oregon, if a company owes someone $100 or more they are required to make a “good faith” effort to find the person, Tate said. They are not obligated to do so if the loot is less than that. If the effort fails, or the amount is less than $100, the funds often make their way to the state.

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