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Econ 919 — PFD payments start this week

PFD pic.jpeg
Rachel Waldholz
/
Alaska Public Media
Alaskans file their Permanent Fund dividend applications in downtown Anchorage in March 2016.

Permanent fund dividends are starting to hit Alaskans’ bank accounts this week.

This year’s payment is bigger than most. It totals $3,284, which includes both a $2,622 dividend and a one-time $662 energy payment, meant to offset high energy prices. The dividend itself is the largest in Alaska’s history, not accounting for inflation.

It also comes earlier than normal. Gov. Mike Dunleavy said that’s to help as the cost of living soars.

Still, some Alaskans are doing what they usually do with their PFD.

“I just keep it in the bank, save it,” said Dinelle Carranza, of Soldotna. She said that’s more or less what she does every year.

So does Arthur Goolsby.

“Im doing the same thing,” he said. “Putting it in savings. We own the Midway Auto, so we’re not in a big struggle for money right now.”

He said over at Midway Auto, people are already using their PFDs to put down payments on cars. He said that’s not unusual during PFD time.

At Beemuns Variety, in Soldotna, owner Steve Beeson said this time of year is usually busy for him, too.

Bicycles are one purchase bringing customers in. But big buys run the gamut.

“It’s a wide range of things,” Beeson said. “There’s specific things people are waiting for, that when they get their PFDs they can come in and get. “

This year’s PFD was part of one of the legislature’s largest budgets in Alaska history. When that budget passed, lawmakers expected that the Russian invasion of Ukraine would raise oil prices and boost the state’s revenue. They decided to spend most of the surplus this session.

As usual, the PFD-setting process spurred a lot of disagreement in the legislature. And lawmakers did not settle on long-term solutions, despite a recommendation from a working group to set a PFD formula to stabilize that process.

Regardless of the process, Alaskans, and Alaska nonprofits, are now seeing checks hit their accounts.

The Alaska Community Foundation received some of its highest Pick.Click.Give. totals ever at over $3 million in pledges, according to Jessie Lavoie, director of programs and grants. The program lets Alaskans donate portions of their PFDs directly to causes, like the Kenai Peninsula Food Bank.

Lilly Murray with the food bank said PFDs make a difference for them as the holidays approach. She said it’s too early to tell just how much the food bank will ultimately get this year. As it stands, those donations are just pledges.

“Right now, we’re looking at between $19,000 and $20,000, which is about even with what we received last year,” she said. “ Despite the PFD being a little bit bigger. “

She said that’s in addition to a handful of checks that donors delivered in-person.Which has been great, too,” she said.

Carranza, the Soldotna resident who’s adding her PFD to her savings, said the philosophy on PFD spending this year seems to be normal among the people she knows, despite the higher-than-usual amount.

“I think some people are maybe going on vacation,” she said. "And by the looks of the Walmart parking lot, it looks like a lot of people are shopping.”

Over in the Kenai Walmart parking lot, Caroline Wilson said she plans to go shopping. But not for a new TV, or a new car.

“I’m going to be buying groceries. I’m going to fill my freezer,” she said.

That’s what she does every year.

“Have to,” she said. “I’m too old to go moose hunting.”

She said the big PFD and energy check are welcome as costs of living stay high. It costs her $65 to fill up the tank of her car.

“It’s going to help a lot of people because of the gas prices and the food," she said. "It’s just ridiculous."

She said that could be especially true for people in northwestern Alaska, as they deal with the fallout from a major, destructive storm — Typhoon Merbok.

Wilson already got her PFD, by direct deposit. Henry Eide said he’s waiting to get his check in the mail.

“I think I’m going to be putting some money into my truck and fixing my truck,” he said.

Alaskans like Eide who requested paper checks should start receiving their PFDs the the week of Oct. 3.

Sabine Poux is the news director at KDLL. Originally from New York, she's lived and reported in Argentina and Vermont, where she fell in love with local news. She covers all things central peninsula but is especially interested in stories related to energy and fishing. She'd love to hear your ideas at spoux@kdll.org.
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