Updated: 05/03/2013 9:47 AM KSTP.com By: Beth McDonough
The state has money. A big stash of cash, perhaps with your name on it.
As of Monday, there's $550 million just sitting in state coffers, which equals half the state's budget deficit.
KSTP along with the Department of Commerce are on a mission: to reunite folks with forgotten funds.
We're calling the effort Big Money Monday. Every Monday this month, we're putting money in the hands of Minnesotans, like Alvin Ellison. Bill Lunn met up with him to hand over a big check that's payback from a security deport. We found the funds while searching Minnesota's unclaimed property website.
We helped connect other Minnesotans with big bucks too: Gib Bendell of Minnetonka, Cheryl Eastbourne of Eden Prairie, Michael Johnson, Michael McGowan of Edina and Marian Peterson of South Minneapolis.
Working with the Department of Commerce, we set out to hook up as many people we could with as much cash as we could. We spent months pouring over records, scouring the state's database, and running thousands of possibilities. Liz Hawkins of Lakeville popped up. She's got more than $100 coming to her; she says "It's very nice, a little extra surprise."
So did Bernie Laur of North Oaks. "This is like 'pay it forward;' it's spreading."
And Nicki Sperle of Minneapolis -- her jackpot is nearly $800. "I was thrilled, especially in this economic climate," Sperle said. "I mean everyone could use a little extra spending cash."
Turns out one in 20 Minnesotans has cash waiting to be claimed. It could be a few dollars or it could be a lot of money. We ran one person's name and found them $94,000. They didn't want to go on camera to talk about it, but it gives you the idea that there could be a fortune out there with your name on it.
Last year, the state took in $61 million in unclaimed assets and paid out $19 million. That's a return rate of only 30 percent, which means 70 percent of the stash is still parked in Minnesota's General Fund, collecting dust, waiting to be claimed.
Mike Rothman is the Commissioner for the Department of Commerce. "It's the property of average Minnesotans, and average Minnesotans should get that money," he said.
The assets are things like dormant bank accounts, un-cashed checks, unclaimed wages, safe deposit boxes and life insurance policies.
All too often people become disconnected from their money because they change jobs, move away, pass away or simply forget.
Since January, we've uncovered a long list of Minnesotans owed money, like State Representative Greg Davids who has $193 coming to him. A dozen other lawmakers do, too.
We found the names of school districts, non-profits, kids organizations, small businesses.
Rothman says "It's a good feeling to make sure that people get their money."
So far, we've recouped more than $100,000 for everyday folks.
Alvin Ellison of Minneapolis says he could go for a good meal, go to Country Buffet, take his family out.
Here's how you can find some cash: go to www.missingmoney.com, type in your name and within seconds, you'll find out if you have any money coming to you. If you do, you'll fill out a form to verify you are who you say you are and the state will cut a check. It can take a couple of weeks to get.
Be sure to reach out to us by email and tell us how much you're getting. We could feature you in an upcoming story.
As we started working on this story, we ran into people who have never heard of the unclaimed property unit. The state acts like a vault for the assets, which are held in the general fund until claims are made. The right for the owner or heir to claim the money never expires. Property from safe deposit boxes is auctioned off every 10 years, and the contents of 500 boxes will be up for public auction this spring or summer.
There's more: We're holding a Big Money Monday event from 4-7 p.m. Monday, May 13, at Kowalski's in Eden Prairie at the corner of Highway 4 and Eden Prairie Road.
The Commissioner of Commerce will be on hand along with a super-computer.