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Alaskans pocket over $3,000 in annual oil-wealth payments




ANCHORAGE, Alaska (Associated Press) – Almost everyone in Alaska took home a windfall of more than $3,000 on Tuesday, the day the state began distributing payments from the Alaska Investment Fund that was funded with the state’s oil wealth money.

The payments, officially called the perpetual fund return or locally PFD, were $2,622 – the highest ever. Alaska lawmakers added a $662 one-time benefit to help residents with high energy costs.

Direct deposits began hitting bank accounts on Tuesday, and checks will arrive later for whoever chooses them.

Residents use the money in various ways, from buying big screen TVs, cars or other goods, to using it on vacations or putting it into savings or college money. In rural Alaska, the money can help offset the massive costs of fuel and food, like $14 for 12 cans of soda, $4 for a packet of celery, and $3 for a small container of Greek yogurt.

“We’re seeing a record high in inflation we haven’t seen since the first money was paid in 1982,” Governor Mike Dunleavy said in a video. “Alaskans have been bearing the brunt of this inflation from the gas pump to the grocery store, and this year’s PFD will provide much-needed relief as we approach winter.”

The timing of the inspections couldn’t come at a better time for those who live on the state’s vast west coast, which was devastated last weekend by the remnants of Hurricane Merbock. Damage to homes and infrastructure spread along a thousand miles (1,609 km) of shoreline.

Among the communities that suffered the most damage was Nome, the largest city on the coast with a population of about 3,500 and known as the end point of the world’s most famous bobsleigh race.

Howard Farley, now 90, helped secure Nome as the Iditarod’s finish line more than 50 years ago. His century-old home was safe from the storm on higher ground in Nome, but they lost about 100 feet (30.48 meters) of facade and one building at the family’s camp site about 5 miles (8 kilometers) east of town.

“The beach is much closer,” he said.

He said the payments – which would be more than $1,600 for a family of five – were in high demand.

“Even the people who haven’t been hit hard, with inflation soaring here, this really hits hard,” he said.


The price of gas is $7 a gallon and will stay that way until the next shipment arrives next spring because barges can’t deliver once the Bering Sea is frozen, Farley said.

“The price is not going to go down like in Anchorage and elsewhere because you guys can get deliveries almost at any time,” he said.

“What it will mean for a lot of families is that they can beat the high prices we are paying,” he said.

The oil wealth check, which some in Alaska regards as a benefit, is usually derived from the earnings of a nest egg investment account. The diversified fund was created during the construction of a pipeline through Alaska in the 1970s and is now $73.6 billion.

There is an annual application process and residency requirements to qualify for earnings. Dividends have traditionally been paid using dividends from the Alaska Perpetual Fund. Lawmakers in 2018 began using dividends to also help pay the government and sought to limit the amount of dividends that can be withdrawn for both purposes. The amount to be distributed this year is half of the authorized withdrawal.

Residents received their first check, $1,000, in 1982. The amounts have varied over the years, and have traditionally been calculated on a five-year rolling average to prevent a downturn in the economy.

The smallest check ever was $331 in 1983. The largest check before this year was $2,072 in 2015. If someone cashed every check since 1982, it would be $47,049.

Mildred Jonathan, 74, and her husband, Alfred, 79, live 100 miles (161 kilometers) west of the Canadian border in the inner Alaskan village of Tanacross.

There will be no frivolous spending when they receive their paper check in October. Instead, Jonathans’ main purchase will be firewood.

“The lumber I hope to get is $1600, which is a load of 10 wires,” she said. “I’ll survive the winter if I buy that.”

It was already snowing on the nearby mountains, and temperatures in the village of Athabaskan during the winter are usually below zero. “It’s cold, cold, cold,” she said.

Any money left for the couple will go to a new hot water system, the floor of their home and Christmas gifts for their grandchildren, who want new phones.


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