(TRENTON) – The Department of the Treasury’s Unclaimed Property Administration (UPA) announced a record $3.6 million to help provide assistance to low and moderate income New Jersey households struggling to pay their utility bills. The contribution, presented to the Affordable Housing Association on National Unclaimed Property Day, is an increase from last year’s $3.2 million contribution.
“No family should have to choose between putting food on the table and keeping the lights on or the heat running, and this year more families faced this awful decision than ever before,” said State Treasurer Elizabeth Maher Muoio. “Our Unclaimed Property Administration works tirelessly all year long to support their overarching mission of recovering and safeguarding funds for New Jersey residents. That mission becomes all the more essential this time of year when a portion of those funds are used to help struggling families throughout our state.”
Nearly 33 million people in the United States – 1 in every 10 – has unclaimed property: financial accounts or items of value in which the owner has not initiated any activity for a number of years. When that happens, and the company cannot locate the owner, the money or properties are submitted to the state. Common examples include unpaid life insurance benefits, forgotten bank accounts, utility deposits, and unused rebate cards.
Under state statute, all funds received in unclaimed property deposits from electric and gas utilities are deposited into the Unclaimed Utility Deposits Trust Fund. Each year, 75 percent of those deposits received are issued to a statewide non-profit energy assistance organization designated by the Board of Public Utilities.
“In a year unlike any other we’ve seen, it is only fitting that record-high funding be directed to relieve utility bills for those who are struggling financially,” said Joseph L. Fiordaliso, President, New Jersey Board of Public Utilities. “Paired with the expanded assistance programs already being offered by our State agencies and the utility companies themselves in response to this devastating pandemic, these unclaimed funds will go a long way to address outstanding bills as we keep the heat on, the lights shining, and the water flowing for those residents who need it most.”
“Utility costs are a challenge for many struggling families all year long, particularly during winter and summer when heating and cooling costs soar,” said UPA Administrator Steve Harris. “It’s extremely rewarding to see the funds we manage help support such a worthy cause.”
State law stipulates that the funds must be used exclusively for the payment of expenses associated with the restoration of electric or gas service, or to prevent the termination of electric or gas service provided to utility ratepayers seeking energy assistance. The remaining portion is retained in the trust fund, administered and invested by the State Treasurer, and used to pay Unclaimed Property claims and expenses and costs incurred by the State of New Jersey.
The Affordable Housing Alliance (AHA) is a New Jersey-based private, nonprofit 501(c)(3) corporation that has been providing housing and related relief to New Jersey residents for over 23 years. The Alliance manages several utility assistance programs, including PAGE and LIHEAP, helping low and moderate individuals and families who are seeking relief in paying their gas, electric, and oil bills.
“As we have all faced unprecedented challenges in responding to COVID-19 residents of New Jersey can find security in knowing that millions of dollars in resources are being provided to address critical services like the cost of utilities. Families have remained in their residences, working and learning at home, at rates never before seen requiring them to cover more light, heat, hot water and other drains on their utilities,” said Donna M. Blaze, AHA CEO. “The PAGE program is infusing $5 million in resources from unclaimed property dispositions to help low- and moderate-income families contribute to the rising costs of their utility bills. AHA is proud to administer the program to a much broader range of residents this year when outstanding bills have never been higher.”
Applications for assistance can be found at: www.njpoweron.org.
To increase awareness of unclaimed property, National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators (NAUPA) launched the first National Unclaimed Property Day on February 1, 2021, to encourage people to search https://www.unclaimedproperty.nj.gov/ or unclaimed.org/ search to determine if a state is holding their property. Individuals are encouraged to search their name, a maiden name, or the name of a business or non-profit. The search is free.
The National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators leads and facilitates collaboration among administrators, holders, and the public in their efforts to reunite unclaimed property with its rightful owner.