New York’s Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli is trying to whittle down a fund of abandoned or unclaimed money owed to both individuals and municipalities.
DiNapoli’s office says there are more than 31 million accounts in the state with money sitting in them. It can be a utility deposit or old bank account that sat unused too long and was turned over to the state.
About 10,000 of those unclaimed funds belong to towns and cities throughout the state, worth more than $5 million.
"We find nothing typical," the comptroller said. "It’s big cities, mid-sized cities, small villages, it’s the whole gamut in terms of where we’re finding unclaimed funds."
DiNapoli admits it’s probably not enough money to solve cities’ financial crunches, "but at a time where every local government seems very pinched and stretched as far as their budgets, any found money is found.
"And even if it’s a small amount, it’s money they haven’t been counting on and if that relieves a bit of pressure, then I think it’s well worth it to get the money returned to them," he said.
DiNapoli says the state uses some of the money turned over to it, but his office keeps enough to pay out claims. He says searchable online databases have made claiming money easier, but there are still some accounts dating back to the 1940s.
The comptroller also says an improved bond rating for New York is validation of efforts to improve the state’s financial standing.
The upgrade from Moody's Investors Service to Aa1, one notch below the highest possible rating, is the best it’s been since the 1970s, according to DiNapoli.
He says it will have a long-term positive impact if the state can continue to make improvements to its budget.
"If we stay the course, if we continue to have budgets that are in balance for the long term, if the economy doesn’t go backwards, if we continue our commitments on the pension fund," he said, "all of that will hopefully maintain this good rating and maybe even get it to be improved another notch."
DiNapoli says a better bond rating makes it easier for the state to spend and borrow. He says the upgrade reflects the steps the governor and the state Legislature have taken in recent years to keep spending in line with revenues.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo says the better rating is a nice affirmation of the state’s performance.