Austin holding millions in unclaimed dollars

Investigations

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The city of Austin is holding millions of dollars in unclaimed checks, ranging from rebates to taxpayers, payments to contractors, and grants for nonprofits.

As of December 31, 2019, the city held onto 4,982 checks worth $22,464,470.14.

Most of that money was recently issued, but some of it has sat unclaimed for years.

As City Controller Diana Thomas explained, Austin makes frequent efforts to contact payees who are owed money.

However, some are harder to track than others.

“The company may have closed, or the people who lived in that house at that address may have moved,” she said. “We don’t always have a good way to follow where they are now.”

One man, for example, hasn’t cashed in a $26,000 Austin Energy rebate check and has a local PakMail listed as his address.

But while some payees are difficult to track, a large taxpayer-funded entity like the Austin Independent School District shouldn’t be.

Yet KXAN investigators found AISD hasn’t cashed in on money meant for local school improvement projects.

City records show a check never cleared meant for a fitness program at Govalle Elementary School. AISD was issued that check back in 2016.

In another case, a Bright Green Future Grant was awarded for a rainwater project at Woolridge Elementary in early 2019.

The city says the district never cashed that check either.

Despite our best efforts Thursday to ask AISD why it has left money on the table, no one was able to provide an answer. When the district does, KXAN will update this story.

Thomas says if a check doesn’t clear or bounces back, the city will contact the department who issues the check.

She says the city then tries to contact the payee at least once a year.

Austin holds onto the money for three years before turning it over to the state of Texas.

You can check and see whether you have money to claim on the city’s website here. You can search by your name or the name of your business.

If the money has been turned over to the state, you can check for that here.

The Texas Comptroller’s Office has more than $5 billion in forgotten cash and valuables.

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