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Each year the Benton REA Board of Trustees chooses to pay back ownership credits to members, and thousands of those checks go uncashed. After one year, uncashed checks become unclaimed and the funds are transferred to Benton REA’s Education Fund.
Benton REA can use money in the Education Fund for—you guessed it—education. The co-op’s Scholarship and Youth Tour programs are paid for through unclaimed ownership credits, along with other services such as energy-efficiency classes and safety demonstrations.
“As great as these programs are, our first goal is to get the money into the rightful members’ hands,” says Lori Cotsford, financial services assistant.
Many unclaimed ownership credits date back to electric service received nearly thirty years ago.
In 2021, Benton REA paid more than $1 million to active members in 1992 and 1993. Many of those people have since moved, changed their name or died. Benton REA tries to reach these individuals or their heirs by phone and email if the check returns undeliverable. Finding the rightful home for the check is difficult if the member did not update Benton REA with their current contact information.
If you know a fellow member who has moved away, encourage them to call Benton REA and update their contact information so they will receive their ownership credit payments. They may have money waiting for them.
If someone dies before all their Benton REA ownership credits are paid to them, future payments go to their estate. They will continue to be paid out in the normal percentage of equity rate unless the estate requests a discounted early retirement.
Benton REA members will receive all their allocated ownership credits over time. The amount of time depends on how much electricity they purchased and the member’s percentage of equity. This is different for every member.
Inactive members age 65 or older can request payment of their ownership credits at a discount by calling 509-781-6724. They must provide proof of age and sign the Ownership Credits Payment Authorization form.
If you are reading this, you’re most likely an active member of the co-op.
“If you receive an ownership credit check, please remember to cash or deposit it as soon as you receive it,” Lori says. “This co-op is owned by its members and receiving these payments is a tangible way to participate in your ownership.”
If you wish to receive future ownership credit payments as a credit on your electric bill or to donate them to Benton REA’s Power to Care or Education funds, visit www.BentonREA.org/OwnershipCredits and download the Ownership Credits Payment Authorization form.
By purchasing electricity from Benton REA, member-owners invest in the co-op. At the end of the year, the co-op allocates a portion of the year’s margin to the members who paid electricity bills that year. Benton REA keeps and uses these margins to maintain the electric system and pay down debt.
All utilities have margins, but only electric cooperatives, like Benton REA, allocate and, over time, pay back those margins to members.
Benton REA determines your payment based on total accrued ownership credits through the percentage of equity method. Additionally, the board can pay back one or more of the oldest years’ equity.