Just a couple months ago, our world changed as COVID-19 spread and social distancing became the norm. Schools, businesses, and even churches transitioned to operating online in order to protect our citizens and “flatten the curve.” As our state and nation navigate these unprecedented times, I want you to know that the Secretary of State’s Office is here to help by continuing to provide online services.
Several years ago, the Secretary of State’s Office initiated a business continuity plan to ensure that the office would be able to operate in the event of a natural disaster, such as a hurricane or flood. In addition to providing online services, the office would be able to continue to operate, even remotely, should the need arise. It was never contemplated that a pandemic would put this plan to the test. This planning and forward thinking laid the foundation for the online filing and accessibility of documents, which is now allowing businesses to continue to access our agency’s services and navigate the economic uncertainly brought on by the COVID-19 virus.
The Business Entities Online Filing and Documents Retrieval System has allowed businesses, large and small, to continue to incorporate online and obtain records needed to access economic assistance under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Since our office began operating remotely in mid-March, businesses have conducted more than 31,000 transactions. Over two thirds of these were requests for certified copies of filings and certificates of existence, which are needed for commercial dealings and loan applications. Moreover, this number of transactions exceeded those performed in the same time period last year by over 1,000. Although I am dismayed by the circumstances that have caused our office to transition to remote status, I am proud that we have continued to operate at the same pace or higher as when the state was unaffected by a global pandemic.
In addition to offering online services for businesses, the Secretary of State’s Office provides online filing for charities. Not only can nonprofits register and file financial reports through our website, but charitable donors can search organizations to see if they are authorized to solicit in South Carolina and review their most recent financial data. Furthermore, our Charities and Investigation Divisions are ready and available to assist anyone who believes that they are the target of a fundraising scam. Crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic can bring out the best in people, but unfortunately can bring out the worst as well. If you are concerned about any charitable solicitation you receive, regardless if it is coronavirus-related, you can file a confidential complaint through our website at www.sos.sc.gov, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
The Secretary of State’s Office has worked hard to make its services accessible to everyone, whether online, through the mail, or in person. The COVID-19 crisis has proven that our world can change rapidly, and that we must be able to adapt to new ways of doing things. By implementing new technologies and offering services through online and mobile platforms, the Secretary of State’s Office has continued to serve our customers well. As your Secretary of State, I look forward to the day when our community has healed from this pandemic. Until then, please know that our agency remains an online resource to keep South Carolina open for business.