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State of Illinois really might owe you something

LaSalle News Tribune

Thursday, January 11, 2018  |  Article  |  

Treasurer (92)

If you feel like the state of Illinois owes you something, you could be right.

State treasurer Michael Frerichs said the state has billions in unclaimed money, including $10.5 million in La Salle County, when he spoke Wednesday morning at the Illinois Valley Area Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development’s monthly breakfast at Mario’s Maples Supper Club.

“That’s your homework assignment,” Frerichs said. “We find about 1 in 4 people who check are owed money.”

He recommended going to illinoistreasurer.gov/ and clicking on the ICash option to find out if someone is owed money.

Frerichs said he keeps good track of his finances, but when he took office he found out he had unclaimed cash from a PayPal transaction that never went through. He’s also found people who never collected on significant life insurance policies, too.

Peru schools superintendent Mark Cross, who was in attendance, said his son checked to see if his family was owed any money and found five individuals that could collect checks.

“I get to play Santa Claus every day,” Frerichs said.

Bright spots

Frerichs sang the praises of a trio of tax-advantaged savings account programs known as 529’s.

The Bright Start and Bright Beginnings (Achieving a Better Life Experience) programs allow parents to save for college tuition.

Frerichs said students who know they have a college savings in place is seven times more likely to attend college.

“When you set up a college savings account you’re sending a message — I believe in you,” Frerichs said. “The 529 program puts them on a pathway to success.”

He said the Achieving a Better Life Experience, or ABLE, which is also a 529 program, is another one of his favorites.

ABLE allows families to save money for their disabled children.

Normally, if someone with disabilities has more than $2,000 in assets they lose federal aid, Frerichs said.

He said he has talked to families that requested no cash gifts and less pay for part-time help in order to preserve federal aid.

“Can you imagine telling your kid’s employer, no, don’t give my kid a raise,” Frerichs said.

He said the ABLE program allows families to save without incurring those penalties, and he credited its existence to a consortium of states working together.

Frerichs said similar cooperation at a state level was a goal.

“We can do a better job of working together,” he said.

Questions and answers

The treasurer fielded from questions from those in attendance at the chamber breakfast after cautioning that he does not write checks like the comptroller or pass budgets like the state legislature.

A pair of questions touched on education. Frerichs was asked what could be done to keep college-bound students in state and what would need to happen to allow parents to spend some of the Bright Start or Bright Beginnings money on private primary schools.

Frerichs said a legislative action would probably be required to allow the 529 money to be used for private schools.

He explained the state plans to have money in Bright Beginnings and Bright Start in the accounts for more than a decade, so changing it to a short-term go-between might even necessitate the start of a new program.

Regarind higher education, Frerichs said a different approach needs to be taken with colleges because some talented students go away to out-of-state schools and never come back to Illinois.

“They need to be stable, they have to be secure, they have to be affordable,” he said.

Frerichs said that will require long-term planning, which he said has been lacking in years that did not have a budget.

“I wish I had a better answer for you,” Frerichs said.