Not all splurge with annual checks

Posted: Sunday, October 16, 2005

With pump prices fast approaching $3 a gallon at many gas stations, reports that heating oil and natural gas may cost 60 percent more than last year's price, and the federal government announcing Friday that inflation is at a 25-year high, Alaskans are seeing their fair share of economic hardship.

The effects of this can be seen in a number of ways, including how local residents are spending their Alaska Permanent Fund dividend checks.

On Wednesday, qualified residents with direct deposit accounts began receiving their checks of $845.76 — the lowest since 1988 — and several people said they are opting to put the money toward bills, necessities or saving this year, rather than anything recreational.

"The PFD was a joke this year. Mine is gone already to pay for high heating fuel bills," Nikiski resident Ken Thompson said.

Thompson said that he normally would put the money toward tools or materials for a building project around his home, but this year that wasn't an option.

"The cost of living is just too high this year to spend it on anything else," he said.

Shari McKibbin of Kenai also acknowledged that the PFD decline was worrisome, but she found this year's amount enough to take care of at least one major expense.

"I depend on it to pay my car insurance. I pay it every six months, April and October, so I always keep my fingers crossed that the PFD will be at least $600," McKibbin said.

LLoyd Little of Nikiski said he was using his PFD to balance his check book.

"Mine's going to bills, brother, bills," Little said. "It always puts me ahead a bit so I use it to pay my bills every year."

Jennifer Bowman of Soldotna said she was banking her PFD in the hopes of keeping up with soaring gasoline prices.

"Gas prices are crippling me, so I'm putting mine into savings. It may be the only thing that keeps me affording the drive to work," Bowman said.

Jaret Richardson of Sterling said his PFD was already spent to cover a debt that he had at Kenai Peninsula College.

"I used it for tuition," Richardson said. "I usually blow it, but I owed money for classes I took last semester, so that's where it went this year."

While qualified residents with direct deposit have already received their PFDs, all others can expect their paper checks after the state begins mailing them Oct. 26.

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