32° Good Afternoon
32° Good Afternoon

Editorial: Public agencies -- Beyonce, too -- should claim their money

Beyonce, Madonna, Sean Combs and many former governors

Beyonce, Madonna, Sean Combs and many former governors showed up in a search of the New York State comptroller's website for unclaimed funds. (Jan. 7, 2014)

Hey, Beyoncé, go get your money. And Madonna and Hillary Clinton and Robert DeNiro and several former New York governors. And thousands of less famous New Yorkers, too.

If you're making a to-do list for the new year, add a visit to the New York comptroller's website for unclaimed funds -- Find out if your name or organization is among more than 30 million accounts owed a total of $12.5 billion. These are often consumer rebate checks or forgotten bank accounts dating to the early 1940s.

For fun we entered famous names into the database and also found Yoko Ono, Steven Spielberg, Angelina Jolie, Scarlett Johansson and Sean Combs. We found Kirsten Gillibrand's Senate campaign, the Mets and the Yankees, Newsday, and Cablevision, owner of Newsday. We found Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, and past Govs. David A. Patterson, Eliot Spitzer, George Pataki, Mario Cuomo -- even the late Nelson Rockefeller. We told an aide that the current Gov. Cuomo's name was listed for a "Verizon New York" account at the Manhattan address of a long-ago employer. Within a few weeks Cuomo's name was gone from the database, but his spokesman didn't return calls asking how much he reclaimed.

Many claims are small, for as little as $3, but one person recovered as much as $4 million from a stock claim in 2008. A spokeswoman for Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said a recent database search found accounts worth a total of $258 million for 532,107 claimants in Nassau County, and $192 million for 470,192 accounts in Suffolk.

An odd surprise was the number of accounts for many government agencies: 44 for the Long Island Power Authority, 48 for the Port Authority, 16 for Stony Brook University and its hospital, and several for Nassau and Suffolk agencies.

Whether individuals and organizations search out and make claims on their own accounts is their business. But when taxpayer interests are at stake, especially in these days of busted budgets and spending cuts, it only makes sense that public agencies follow up -- and go get our money.