U.S. Sen. John N. Kennedy, R-Madisonville

The U.S. Treasury has a problem worthy of an intervention. It’s hoarding $25 billion in matured, uncashed savings bonds that belong to people across this country, including a lot of folks in Louisiana.

Most of the bonds were purchased in the 1940s to help the federal government finance World War II. Other bonds were bought as gifts for generations of children and grandchildren. All told, $337 million of that $25 billion belongs to Louisiana addresses.

With that kind of money involved, you’re probably wondering why the bonds haven’t been cashed. Blame the passage of time that makes it easy to lose a piece of paper.

Interest on the bonds grows for decades before reaching maturity. With that type of waiting period, many people stashed the bonds into a drawer and forgot about them. Over time, the bonds were lost. That doesn’t mean the paper trail went cold. The U.S. Treasury has records on the bonds. It’s just not sharing that information.

I’ve filed S. 2417 to give states access to the bond records for a simple reason. I know states can reunite the bonds with their owners through Unclaimed Property programs. This money — much of it generated through the financial sacrifice of the "Greatest Generation" — shouldn’t sit in the U.S. Treasury. It should be given to the families who are entitled to it.

As state treasurer, I returned more than $400 million in unclaimed property to 600,000 people across Louisiana. That’s $24 million for every year I was treasurer before moving to the U.S. Senate.

States are very good at finding the owners of lost money and reuniting them with their cash. They find the rightful owners of old payroll checks, utility deposits and insurance proceeds by loading names and addresses into searchable, online databases. It’s a simple concept that works.

Most people only receive a few hundred dollars. Other times, people’s lives are transformed. I returned money that kept people on fixed incomes comfortable in their final years. That’s a good feeling.

It’s amazing how much money is lost that can be found if it’s easy for people to look for it.

Chances are your grandmother bought savings bonds every time a new grandchild arrived into the world. She may have tucked the bonds away for safekeeping without telling anyone. The odds are pretty good that your great aunt supported the war effort by snapping up bonds when she had a little extra money.

I’ve seen some of the bonds from the World War II-era because banks turn them over to unclaimed property programs when they find them in abandoned safe deposit boxes. The Segal sisters of Missouri started buying savings bonds in the 1940s. Over the years, they bought a lot of bonds, stashed them in a bank and forgot about them. Those bonds are now worth more than $670,000.

It’s the bonds that aren’t sitting in safe deposit boxes or anywhere else that are at issue here. The U.S. Treasury has a form you can fill out to claim them. All you need are the issue dates, face amounts and bond serial numbers. It’s tough to supply that information when you don’t have it.

I’m going to win this fight and get these records turned over to Unclaimed Property programs. It’s time to solve U.S. Treasury’s hoarding problem and get this $337 million into the hands of Louisiana families.

John N. Kennedy is a U.S. senator from Louisiana.

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