When did the holidays become so expensive? There are the parties, presents, and decorations not to mention the food. It’s hard to make ends meet as it is, and it can be even more difficult to find money for all of the seasonal extras.

The next few months will be tough for many Louisiana citizens, especially because of the state of our economy. Before citizens panic from the receipts they rack up, they should visit the State Treasury’s unclaimed property Web site or call its toll-free hotline to see if the state owes them money. If we do, well send you a check as soon as possible to give you some extra cash to pay your holiday bills.

I’m sure you’re wondering how the state could possibly owe you money. Here’s how. The Treasury holds $207 million in payroll checks, bank accounts, royalties, utility deposits, interest payments, stock certificates and life insurance proceeds. When businesses cannot locate individuals they owe money to, they turn it over to the state, and it becomes unclaimed property. Unclaimed property also comes from banks and insurance companies that cannot locate individuals who have stocks, bonds or other types of inheritances bequeathed to them.

You can check for your name today on www.latreasury.com, or call toll-free 1-888-925-4127 to see if we have holiday cash for you. One in six individuals has unclaimed property listed with the state, and the average refund is anywhere between $200 and $300.

If you don’t find your name, don’t get too discouraged. I always tell citizens to keep looking every few months, because we get in new, lost money just about every day. Also, keep an eye out for our next Unclaimed Property Awareness Day. Every year we take our unclaimed property employees and laptops on the road to help citizens look for their lost money. We should be coming to a shopping mall near you!

We’re hoping our unclaimed property program can spread a little good cheer this holiday season, because it’s our mission to return lost money to the citizens it belongs to. I’ve said it before that government expects us to pay our taxes on time and in the correct amount. Shouldn’t it be held to the same standard when it has your money? From all of us at the State Treasury, happy holidays and warm wishes for the New Year.