ANCHORAGE, Alaska—It’s a highly anticipated day of the year in Alaska, when residents learn how much money they’ll receive from the state’s oil-wealth savings account—a payout people receive just for living in The Last Frontier.
This year’s share of nearly US$1,900 is the sweetest since the Great Recession and the third-richest ever.
Gov. Sean Parnell announced the amount of the Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend with great fanfare September 17. “This is all good news for Alaskans,” he said at an Anchorage press conference.
The US$1,884 payout to be distributed Oct. 2 is more than double the amount of last year’s US$900 cheques but short of the record payout of US$2,069 in 2008.
The dividends are distributed annually to men, women and children who sign up for it after living in the state for at least one calendar year, or were born in Alaska by the Dec. 31 deadline of the previous year. This year, nearly 599,000 Alaskans will receive money. Of those, the oldest recipient is 109 years old and the youngest includes 26 children who were born Dec. 31. Altogether, the cheques total US$1.1 billion.
The amount of each person’s check is based on a five-year average of the fund’s investment earnings, which have included the recession years. Alaska wasn’t hit as hard by the recession as the Lower 48, but the Permanent Fund Corp. has a diversified portfolio that was clobbered when markets plunged worldwide. The fund has since recovered, according to officials. The fund had a balance of US$29.9 billion in 2009, compared with US$51.2 billion five years later.
The Permanent Fund was established in 1976 after the discovery of oil on Alaska’s North Slope. The state began distributing fund money to residents in 1982. If an Alaskan has qualified for all of the cheques distributed since the beginning, he or she would have collected US$37,027.41. With the upcoming distribution, the state will have distributed more than US$21.9 billion over the years.
Alas, it’s not all free money. Alaska has no state income tax, but residents must pay federal taxes on the bounty.