Millions of dollars worth of unclaimed money on the way to people in Louisiana
BATON ROUGE- Millions of dollars in unclaimed money that belongs to Louisiana residents began going out to them two weeks ago. State Treasurer John Schroder said 45,000 checks were mailed and are showing up in people's mailboxes.
"Let's face it, hardly anybody is working, especially those in restaurants and hotels and the service industry," Schroder said. "They are all home, so to send 45,000 people checks, is just unbelievable. It was like Christmas morning for me."
Unclaimed money is lost money. It comes to the state treasurer's office because a company lost track of the owner of the funds based on a change of address. Almost $800 million is owed to citizens according to Shroder. He said just yesterday his office was flooded with at least 500 phone calls with people wondering if the checks were legitimate.
"If it has the treasury seal, my signature... it's real," Schroder said. "Take it to the bank, the bank won't cash it if it's fake."
Despite the good news of people getting money in the mail, there is controversy. Some of that money is the focus of pending litigation. In February, Governor John Bel Edwards filed a lawsuit against Schroder to get him to turn over some of that unclaimed money to the state. In the past, state treasurers turned it over to be spent by the state and lawmakers, but not this time.
"I don't see anywhere in the law where it says it should go to the general fund," Schroder said. "At the end of the day, the more money we return to the citizens of Louisiana, that's less money when this settles that government is going to get. I don't believe they should get any of it."
The lawsuit that was filed in February was still ongoing but court dates that were upcoming have been delayed due to the coronavirus crisis. We asked whether he was concerned about jumping the gun in sending out the money before a judge can make a ruling.
"No, here is the bottom line, this money does not belong to the State of Louisiana," Schroder said. "I will go to my grave with that."
Schroder added the litigation does not stop his office from doing what they're supposed to be doing anyway.
"If we give all the money out, we don't have any money," Schroder said. "My goal is to give back every penny. We're well on track to hit over $50 million this year, which is outstanding. We typically give back $25-$27 million a year."
In addition to the money hitting mailboxes now, Schroder said his office just received word that they will be able to send out another batch soon.
The governor's office had this to say about the pending lawsuit with the treasurer's office:
“Since the inception of the Unclaimed Property program four decades ago, it has always had sufficient funds to pay claims and to have the excess funds transferred to the State General Fund as the state constitution requires.
"Even after the payment of these recent claims, Treasurer Schroder is holding on to tens of millions of dollars that could be used now to provide needed funds for health care providers or to provide assistance to our schools. I am happy that the Treasurer is meeting his obligation to return these funds to the people of Louisiana. The remaining funds should be used, as required by law, to meet the needs of all of the people of Louisiana in this emergency.”
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