Opinion: Government Needs to Reunite Savings Bonds with Rightful Owners

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The following opinion was written and submitted by Curt Meier, Wyoming State Treasurer.

During my time as Treasurer, I have seen thousands of individuals across the State of Wyoming locate money being held by our Unclaimed Property Division. Some of these checks have been in the six-figure range, and the rightful owner may not have ever been paid if not for the Unified Unclaimed Property laws in our great state.

I have seen first-hand how effective this program can be, yet our federal government doesn’t want to turn over nearly $26 billion in savings bonds (an estimated $45 million belonging to Wyomingites) that have reached maturity and no longer pay interest. Unless the owner or rightful heir of the owner of these financial instruments have the physical bond in their possession, these funds may never be returned.

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That’s why I support Senate Bill 2417, “The Unclaimed Savings Bond Act of 2019,” which was introduced by Sen. John Kennedy (R-Louisiana) and co-sponsored by Sens. Jerry Moran (R-Kansas) and Bill Cassidy (R-Louisiana).

Savings bonds traditionally are sold for a set amount and then mature many years later when they are redeemable for a larger amount. As an example, a $100 savings bond that matures in 20 years could have purchased in July 1980 for $14.33. The owner of that bond could have cashed it in for $100 in July 2000 or any date thereafter.

The U.S. Treasury does not have an active program to locate the bondholders and therefore reunite them with the proceeds of their bonds. In fact, according to the National Association of State Treasurers, if an individual knows they have purchased a matured bond but can’t locate the physical document, they have to wait at least six years after the maturity of the bond AND supply the serial number of that bond. Since the U.S. Treasury is the sole holder of that information, it is difficult if not impossible for the owner to get the money if the certificate was lost or forgotten.

Turning over the money from these matured savings bonds along with all their owners’ identifying information to the states’ unclaimed property divisions makes sense in many ways:

  • All 50 states along with the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico already have successful unclaimed property programs
  • Many citizens are already familiar with the process of filing unclaimed property claims in their state, as well as other states where they resided in the past
  • If given access to the federal records, these bondholders’ names and last known address would become part of each state’s searchable database
  • The proceeds from these bonds rightfully belong to individuals across the nation, and we should make it as easy as possible for the rightful owner to locate their money

In Wyoming, we were able to reunite Wyoming residents or former residents with more than $6.85 million in the fiscal year that ended June 30. Even if just a small percentage of these matured savings bonds have a last known address in the Cowboy State, that number would swell in the years to come.

The State of Wyoming still holds more than $85 million in unclaimed property. If you haven’t searched to see if you or a loved one are entitled to any of these funds being held in Wyoming, I strongly encourage you to access our database and search for yourself at www.mycash.wyo.gov.

I have asked Wyoming’s elected officials in Washington to support this bill, and I encourage you to share your thoughts with them as well.