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Are you owed money? The state wants you to find out

Marlene Bessette poses with Thomas DiNapoli (L) and Demond Meeks (R) holding a check for over $5,000 of unclaimed money.
April Franklin
Marlene Bessette poses with Thomas DiNapoli (L) and Demond Meeks (R) holding a check for over $5,000 of unclaimed money.

People trickled into the Boys and Girls Club of Rochester on Tuesday with hopes that they may be entitled to even a little bit of the $17 billion of unclaimed funds held by New York state.

On hand to help people find out if they were owed some money were State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli and Assemblymember Demond Meeks. 

Staff from DiNapoli's office helped people search the electronic database containing millions of records of unclaimed funds.

The officials are hoping community outreach events will make it easier for people to find money that may be owed to them or deceased relatives.

“We want to return this money, especially with this difficult year we have all been through,” DiNapoli said. “And we’re just returning money that belongs to the New Yorkers we’re returning it to.”

Meeks said the money could be useful to those who are still recovering financially from the pandemic.

“It’s not to say that these are large sums of money," Meeks said. "Something like 70% are $100 or less, but it’s still something that belongs to the individual. 

“So if it’s yours, we want to make sure you have an opportunity to receive it,” Meeks added.

There are more than 44 million unclaimed fund accounts in New York state. DiNapoli said the accounts never expire. He also explained that money ends up being turned over to the state in a variety of ways.

“The most typical way is an old bank account, or if someone has moved. Or checks that weren’t cashed,” DiNapoli said.

He added many people are unaware of death benefits, or that they may have the right to claim money in the name of a relative who has died.

The Boys and Girls of Rochester, Catholic Family Center, Center for Youth and United Methodist Church got small windfalls on Tuesday, with individual unclaimed checks totaling nearly $6,000. 

DiNapoli said New York state returns over $1.5 million of unclaimed money to individuals and organizations on a daily basis, and he’s happy to see the money end up where it belongs.

“People say ‘thank you, thank you.’ Don’t thank us, we’re just giving you back your own money.” DiNapoli said.

April Franklin is an occasional local host of WXXI's Weekend Edition.