The state has $750 million in unclaimed funds, and some of it might be yours.

S.C. Treasurer Curtis Loftis recently announced more than 615,000 new properties were added to the state’s Unclaimed Property Program, a total value of $84 million in additional funds available to owners just a day before the observance of National Unclaimed Property Day. 

Unclaimed property can be a lot of different things — but it’s usually intangible cash like stocks, bonds or uncashed checks. Although about one in 10 Americans has unclaimed property, according to Loftis, most would never know it.

Billions of dollars are returned to state treasurer’s offices around the country every year. Since 2011, more than $260 million has been returned to South Carolina residents alone. 

“It’s kind of funny,” Loftis told Statehouse Report, the City Paper’s sister publication, this week. “You have to practically knock them over the head with the money to get them to take it. They think it’s not theirs, or that you’re a crook.” 

Big and modest payouts

Loftis recounted the tale of one woman who was called at least five times by different offices and associates before she was finally given the money she was owed — nearly $600,000. But payouts of that size are few and far between, Loftis said.

“We talk about the big ones because that motivates people to think they got lucky,” he said. “The big claims, the funny claims, the extraordinary claims, they just get people to check in.” 

And it isn’t just big-time stockholders or business aficionados who may find unclaimed property with the treasurer’s office. 

“Anyone who owns or possesses unclaimed property … it’s supposed to stay in the state treasurer’s office. That’s banks, water departments, the government itself and individual residents. It could be anything from $5 to over $1 million.”

The average claim is about $500, which may seem like a small chunk compared to the more-than-$750 million in total unclaimed property sitting in the state treasurer’s office today, but Loftis said those small claims can be the most impactful. 

“This isn’t politics. This can really make a difference in people’s lives,” he said. “The people you give $500 to, it’s a single mom with three kids, and that’s the balance on her rent money, or it gets their kids back in school, grandma can buy her medicines. That’s who we do it for.”

Program helps in tough times

S.C. Rep. Robert Williams, D-Darlington, agrees, saying the program is extremely important to especially in today’s tumultuous economic climate as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to ravage the state and inflation is driving up the prices of common goods.

“It’s their money, and we want to make sure that they get it and use it to their advantage,” he said. “The state has a tradition of holding the money of those they can’t find, but they work very hard at getting the money out to the individuals that they need.

“It’s a benefit to the community and a benefit to the individual, especially with the costs of everything going up and nobody’s paychecks going up. This kind of money is exactly what folks need to help get them over the hump.”

Do you have money in the fund?

Loftis said he is encouraging everyone — businesses, charities, schools, churches and individual residents — to check treasurer.sc.gov to see if there are funds waiting for them to be claimed. 

There is no cost to search for or claim funds, so Loftis said the best practice is to check the database at least twice a year for unclaimed funds.

Skyler Baldwin is a reporter with the Charleston City Paper. Have a comment? Send to: feedback@charlestoncitypaper.com.

This story first appeared in Statehouse Report.