On Thursday, the State of Alaska began distributing a total of $672 million to approximately 640,000 qualified Alaska residents, each of whom will be receiving $1,100.
This is the 36th time that Alaskans have received dividend payments from the Alaska Permanent Fund program, according to the Alaska Department of Revenue.
The department reports that Alaskans now have received a total of more than $25 billion since the first dividend checks were distributed in 1982.
By any measure, $25 billion is a significant sum, and a monumental tribute to the Alaskans who worked to create the Alaska Permanent Fund in the mid 1970s as a way to save some of the wealth generated by oil production in the state for future generations of Alaskans.
Over time, the permanent fund itself has grown from the original $734,000 to more than $55 billion through oil revenues and other investment strategies, all the while since 1982 paying to Alaskans annual dividends that have ranged from a low of $331 in 1984 to a high of $2,072 in 2015, according to the Alaska Permanent Fund Division.
The impact of the dividend program on individual Alaskans has been, in a word, tremendous.
It’s safe to say a significant percentage of dividend money goes to the basics. It’s put food on tables, clothes on backs and heating oil in tanks. It’s paid for rent, hospital bills and car repairs. It’s allowed Alaskans to obtain job training and earn college degrees.
Some of it goes into saving and investment accounts, helping Alaskans prepare for their financial futures. Some of it goes toward charity.
And, of course, a lot of it is spent on vacations, toys and other items that can be considered non-essential or essential — depending on your point of view.
But that’s one of the glories of the Alaska Permanent Fund dividend. If you’re an Alaskan qualified to receive a dividend check, that money is yours to spend, save or donate however you wish.
That’s also a key factor in why the permanent fund program has stayed intact over the years. Alaskans appreciate the dividends that it produces, and generally aren’t excited about attempts to use permanent fund revenues for other purposes, such as paying for state government.
Indeed, the 2016 and 2017 dividends are about half of what they would have been had the governor not diverted a portion to help address the state’s current budget deficit woes.
While we expect the Alaska Permanent Fund to be a subject of substantial debate during the upcoming special session of the Alaska Legislature, this week is about the arrival of direct-deposited dividend checks in bank accounts throughout the state (The division also started mailing physical checks on Thursday).
May we use our individual dividends to their best purpose this year, and may we all say a word of thanks to the wise folks who had the foresight to establish the Alaska Permanent Fund.
— Ketchikan Daily News, Oct. 6