RALEIGH — The state is holding nearly $18 million that belongs to thousands of Union County individuals and businesses and all the owners of the money have to do is claim it.

Every year checks intended for state residents pour into the North Carolina Department of State Treasurer (DST). Presently, the DST is holding $919 million in unclaimed money that rightfully belongs to individuals and businesses.

The proceeds, which range from wages, refunds, deposits, insurance and investment distributions, usually end up in the DST’s Unclaimed Cash fund because the sender had no current or forwarding address. Often the sender makes little to no effort to find the owed party. Instead the money goes into the state’s coffers until claimed — if ever.

Presently, the state’s Unclaimed Cash for Union County totals $17,826,356.69 — all due to locals residents and businesses. Many have several eligible claims as the state lists each claim separately.

Last week. State Treasurer Dale R. Folwell announced the state has made the claiming process much easier, following new legislation. The General Assembly recently passed and Gov. Roy Cooper signed a law that allows DST’s Unclaimed Property Division (UPD) to work with the rightful owners to claim up to $5,000 without any red tape. The initiative is called NCCash Match and was rolled out on a six-month trial basis in October 2020.

Initially the pilot program allowed the expedited process for claims of up to $250 through March 15. During that limited time UPD staff processed 20,969 claims among all 100 counties and distributed slightly more than $1.4 million. The total was nearly $1.7 million when including payments made on 3,895 claims to people no longer living in North Carolina. Due to the success of the program, both legislative chambers voted unanimously to make the program permanent, and the bill was signed into law by the governor on March 11.

Folwell said the new goal for the program is to pay at least 100,000 claims per year under the higher cap. The next round of checks were scheduled to be issued Wednesday, May 5.

“As the state-mandated custodian of $919 million of unclaimed property, our mission is to put that money back into the wallets and bank accounts of the rightful owners, especially now that so many people are still feeling the financial shock of the COVID-19 lockdowns,” Folwell said in last week’s press release . “The NCCash Match program is just one innovative method we are employing to achieve that aim without bureaucracy.”

Under NCCash Match, property owners do not need to take any action to receive their money — no claim forms to fill out, no searching for papers showing proof of ownership and no signature pages to complete. UPD proactively researches its records to identify qualifying properties of $5,000 or less. Notification letters are mailed to claimants with a goal of issuing a check in six to eight weeks. North Carolina is one of the few states in the country that offers this service.

The unclaimed money that UPD safeguards comes from uncashed checks, forgotten bank accounts, utility deposits, insurance proceeds, stocks, bonds and other abandoned funds.

“There are millions of items in DST custody that don’t qualify for NCCash Match,” Folwell said. “So I encourage you to go to the NCCash.com website and do a search for your name, your spouse’s maiden name, your friends’ and relatives’ names, business, church and nonprofits to see if there is a windfall waiting to be collected.”

The Unclaimed Property Division receives and safeguards funds that are escheated, or turned over, to the N.C. Department of State Treasurer according to state law. The unclaimed property consists of bank accounts, wages, utility deposits, insurance policy proceeds, stocks, and bonds that are uncollected or undeliverable, and contents of safe deposit boxes that have been abandoned.

More information, including how to find out if you are owed money, can be found at https://www.nccash.com.

If you have additional questions regarding your claim for unclaimed cash, and would like assistance, please contact North Carolina Department of State Treasurer, Unclaimed Property Division, at 866-NCCash1 (866-622-2741) or at unclaimed.property@nctreasurer.com.