By DANIEL KITTREDGE A pair of Cranston businesses were reunited with unclaimed property checks Monday as part of a broader statewide initiative through the office of General Treasurer Seth Magaziner. Accompanied by Lammis Vargas - who represents Ward 1
A pair of Cranston businesses were reunited with unclaimed property checks Monday as part of a broader statewide initiative through the office of General Treasurer Seth Magaziner.
Accompanied by Lammis Vargas – who represents Ward 1 on the Cranston City Council and serves as the treasurer’s unclaimed property director – and a pair of local lawmakers, Magaziner made stops at T’s Restaurant on Park Avenue and The Big Cheese & Pub on Reservoir to drop off checks for $3,655 and $587, respectively.
“We are here because small businesses are the heart of Rhode Island’s economy,” Magaziner told members of the media outside T’s. “Small businesses have really taken it on the chin with COVID-19 … so we want to do everything we can to help small businesses stay alive and get through this and grow and thrive.”
“We’re very appreciative of your efforts,” T’s owner Anthony Tomaselli told the treasurer and his staff. At The Big Cheese, manager Angela Moosey represented the establishment during a brief check presentation.
Magaziner said the Cranston stops represent two of more than 1,000 small businesses and nonprofits across the state being reunited with unclaimed property over the course of several weeks as part of a new effort through his office. In all, roughly $1 million is expected to be distributed.
In a nutshell, he said, the Unclaimed Property Program has automated portions of its process. If the treasurer’s office is able to definitively confirm that unclaimed property matches a particular business or nonprofit through information such as address and tax identification number, he said, checks can be sent out automatically.
“We launched a new system this month that allows us to proactively send checks in the mail to a lot of people with no paperwork required,” he said, adding: “It’s a credit to Lammis and the team that they were able to get that system up and running.”
Magaziner said for the roughly 1,000 entities that have been matched with unclaimed property through the new initiative, the average amount of money involved is just more than $600. Some amounts, however, have been in the thousands or tens of thousands of dollars. He acknowledged that some of the businesses to receive checks have been surprised, or even concerned, and have inquired about why they are getting the money.
Vargas said Rhode Island has become one of the first states in the nation to utilize the automated system. She noted that entities will either receive a check or, in the case of larger amounts, a claim form to fill out before the money is issued.
“It’s checking accounts, utility reimbursements … life insurance proceeds, tangible items as well,” Vargas said of the unclaimed property for businesses and nonprofits.
Magaziner added that vendor refunds and utility rebates are also frequently among the unclaimed property for organizations.
“These companies are not incentivized to work very hard to try to reunite that money with the rightful owner, so that’s why we step in and collect it, and it’s up to us to find the rightful owner,” he said.
Magaziner said the statewide check-delivery tour also serves as an opportunity to urge Rhode Islanders – both individuals and organizations – to check for unclaimed property through the state’s online portal, FindRIMoney.com. The treasurer said since he took office, over 100,000 people have been reunited with more than $70 million in uinclaimed property.
“We still encourage people to check the website because we can only do that automatic match if we’re positive it’s going to the right place,” he said. “We’re very careful to only send checks to the right place.”
Vargas said the office regularly sees a “spike” in claims for unclaimed property following media coverage of the program.