By Erika Diehl, West Virginia Press Association
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — State Treasurer Riley Moore wants to return more unclaimed property to the people of West Virginia and says his office’s online database is the key in achieving his goal.
The House Government Organization Committee on Thursday, amended and then passed Senate Bill 318 – relating to public notice of unclaimed property – removing the requirement for the Treasurer to publish information about unclaimed properties annually in newspapers throughout the state.
In place of this practice, the committee’s version of SB-318 allows the treasurer decide whether to distribute a publication or use the online database. Moore said the determination would be made county-by-county as to which method is most effective based on population, demographics and broadband.
The Senate version required a two-year continuation of the print publication. The House committee removed that phase out. The amended bill was adopted, a second reference to the Finance Committee was waived, and the bill sent to the full House.
The Treasurer office’s operates a database of unclaimed property that can be searched by last name.
Moore said the intent of this bill is to give the treasurer’s office more flexibility to get the most property back to the most people in West Virginia.
“The objective here is to return more unclaimed property but have flexibility with the funds that are currently allocated to do this advertising,” Moore said. “What we’re looking to do is just get a better return for the people in West Virginia. We have 3 million pieces of unclaimed property. It’s impossible for us to be able to print all of that.”
Del. Barbara Fleischauer, D – Monongalia, brought up several concerns regarding internet connectivity, inaccurate broadband mapping and the elderly.
“Have you thought about low income people and low accessibility?” Fleischauer asked the Treasurer.
“We’re trying to reach as many people as we can and that’s why we’re trying to broaden the aperture,” Moore said. “If it doesn’t work, we’re just going to go back to print.”
Del. Terri Sypolt, R – Preston, wasn’t aware the current method of publication is not a complete list of unclaimed property, and noted the website allows searches the entire database.
There’s a lot of misconception about this paper advertisement,” said Del. Geoff Foster, R – Putnam, in support of the bill.
Del. Doug Skaff, Jr., D – Kanawha, said while he agrees with the intent of the bill, he treads cautiously with supporting the amended version as West Virginia currently has 55% connectivity rate of people who pay or subscribe to internet service.
“In two years from now our broadband connectivity will be a lot better with the focus our state has put on broadband,” said Skaff, while he encouraged the other Delegates to tread cautiously, as well.
“I think having a thicker tab than normal in a paper does drive people to that site,” said Skaff.
Skaff said he does trust the Treasurer and his staff to take advantage of how print media still communicates with the segment of the market that may not have access to online.“