South Carolina is in the process of mailing $67 million to state residents in the form of $50 checks that the majority of taxpayers will receive, but some early recipients are already giving the money away.
Some are giving their $50 to teachers or schools, which is where they think the money generated from the tax on an $877 million S.C. Education Lottery jackpot should have gone to to begin with.
Others are giving to different charities, and at least one nonprofit group has started seeking donations tied to the $50 checks.
On a Nextdoor social media forum in Mount Pleasant, resident Leigh Theres posted on Nov. 16 she would give her $50 check to a local teacher. She later said the teacher she connected with plans to use the money to buy clothes for students in need.
“As soon as I heard they were giving out $50 I was like, why?” said Theres. "I just don’t understand why the state decided to go that way when there’s been so much about teachers leaving the profession.
“My daughter considered going into teaching but decided she couldn’t afford it," she said. "I know other people who went into teaching, then went back to bartending or whatever."
A dozen people quickly agreed with Theres' idea in the Nextdoor forum and began listing teachers or schools they would contribute their $50.
Some state lawmakers also objected to the refunds going back to taxpayers. In addition to the $61.4 million the state got from taxing the $877.8 million Mega Millions jackpot, the refunds required shelling out another $6 million in state funds plus about $700,000 in mailing expenses.
The majority of lawmakers and Gov. Henry McMaster decided the unexpected money should be given directly to residents who owed at least $50 in state income tax last year.
“Any time the government funds essential programs and agencies and has money left over, we should strive to send it back to the people who earned it,” McMaster said this month.
The state plans to mail all the checks by Dec. 2, according to The S.C. Department of Revenue. Married couples who filed joint returns last year get one check, not two.
Mount Pleasant resident Jerri Foley, a retired teacher, donated her $50 check to a second-grade teacher in North Charleston.
“My husband and I are not wealthy people, but why do we get $50 from a lottery that’s supposed to be for education?" she said.
Some donors used adoptaclassroom.org to identify teachers and schools requesting money. Other recipients of the $50 checks said they plan to give the money to charity.
"I think it's only fair that the money from an 'education lottery' should go to the hard-working teachers," said Liz Haugaard, whose daughter is a second grade teacher in Mount Pleasant.
Charities appear to be picking up on the idea. Harvest Hope Food Bank, which serves 20 S.C. counties, is specifically encouraging people to donate their $50 checks, and has raised hundreds of dollars so far.