Back PFD payments are the stimulus Alaskans need now



As Alaskans face the current COVID-19 outbreak, we face a lot of uncertainty about how severe the disease’s spread will be. We hope that the disease’s spread can be slowed, and Alaska’s public health community is doing yeoman’s work to slow it.

But we already know that with this health crisis comes a severe economic crisis. We already face business closures, layoffs, and wage losses. And we aren’t out of the woods yet, far from it.

Alaskans will get through this as we always do: with tenacity, hard work, and caring for one another. But part of that means that we in state government need to do everything we can to help Alaskans ride out this economic crunch as best we can.

Economists disagree about many things, but nearly all of them agree: in times of economic crisis, the monetary authorities need to inject liquidity – cash – into the economy.

The federal government knows this well, and regularly takes steps to increase the money supply in times of economic crisis, usually by slashing interest rates.

But there’s a limit to how low interest rates can go, and we’re almost there already. Fortunately, there’s another solution: direct cash payments to Americans.

Sounds like something Alaskans know well, doesn’t it?

In Alaska, we know that our permanent fund dividends always provide a boost to our economy. We see it every year. The federal government knows it too, which is why President Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell each have proposals to pay cash directly to Americans.

Paying cash to every American is a big job, and it will take some time for the federal government to get set up to do that. But here in Alaska, we are already prepared – we do it every year. We already have the applicants, their eligibility has already been verified – because we paid them just a few months ago.

The Permanent Fund Dividend is part of being Alaskan – but it is so much more than that. It has been found to significantly reduce obesity in Alaskan children. But most importantly, it has been found to lift between 15,000 and 25,000 Alaskans – especially children, rural residents, and Alaska Natives – out of poverty every year.

There really is no way to seriously address our looming economic crisis without giving this serious consideration. Many Alaskans are already finding themselves without income. The dividend is income. It’s the most direct solution, providing direct relief to the specific problem Alaskans are facing.

There are numerous examples of how Alaskans might use their dividend as relief from the hardships of this outbreak. A family in Chevak might use it to pay for fuel costs in rural Alaska; elderly Alaskan who can pay $500 a month for incontinence products not covered by Medicare could use it to pay for three months of adult diapers; a laid-off single mother could use it to put food on the table.

If this payment means that a family can pay their rent one month more, that by itself can keep them from losing their housing, having to go on expensive state services, and having their lives permanently and negatively disrupted.

The legislature should immediately vote to pay the remaining dividend of $1,300 from our reserve account. This account currently has $18 billion dollars. A withdrawal of $750 million from this account would cover the back dividend from 2019 – and would fulfill a promise made to Alaskans in law. Another dividend should be paid to Alaskans in October.

This can’t wait. Restaurants, bars, schools, and many, many other gathering places and businesses have already been closed all over the state. They will remain closed for the duration of this COVID-19 outbreak – and we don’t know how long that will be.

The Great Alaska COVID-19 Recession is already here, and we need to act now to help Alaskans get through it as best we can. Alaskan wage earners are already finding themselves without hours to work – and staring down bills they don’t know how to pay. It’s not a distant future, or even an imminent one – it’s here now. We can help Alaskans now, and we should.

Sen. Mia Costello is a lifelong Alaskan who represents West Anchorage in the Alaska Senate.


      • Sen Costello was on the radio yesterday and reported that she was excused for medical reasons. She fell on (ice I think) the week before and broke her hip. Her doctor restricted her from travel.

  1. Thank you Senator Costello. This……all ALASKANS would understand and get help through this economic crisis.

  2. This is the right thing to do…
    ..which is why the media and the legislature will fight with all they have to stop it from happening. We have to back the Gov and let the crooks in Juneau know we want this to happen. They have to fear us, and our political power more than GCI, Lynden, the Rasmuson foundation, et al. All the elitist folks and corporations, non profits and bureaucrats that think this money belongs to them instead of Alaskans..we need to remind the legislators that we call the shots, not those groups.

  3. Thank you for your support of the people of Alaska, are you the only one who really cares?

  4. David Eastman has introduced a proposal to do this and more. Let’s hope the legislature can actually work together and get this done to restore the rule of law and accountability to government.

  5. Recklessly spending more money out of the Earnings Reserve at a low point in the stock market is the worst thing Alaska could do right now. The correct course is to help people in need through food banks, unemployment insurance and social services. As far as Downing asking for money, I am sure she can get all the money she needs from AFP

    • While you’re at it, could you say something about the billions the PF just lost in the market turn-down? Something about having lost many billions within just a few weeks? Could you contrast that with the mere 750 million PFD suggested? Something about the PF administrators not being able to get authorization to dump the failing parts of our portfolio?

    • Food banks? How does one get to a food bank when your car is being repossessed? Or your home?

      Unemployment might be enough to eat on, if we’re tight with it. It’s not going to make rent or house payments. Every company involved with such things would need to freeze their collection of funds. And not everyone qualifies for social services — but every Alaskan resident DOES qualify for the PFD, and indeed, are owed back PFDs per the law.

      I’m open to any ideas on our economic status in Alaska. The exercise is: How to Keep Civilization Alive While Unable to Make Money.

      I know one thing. I’d hate to see any Alaskans die because they were denied their PFDs.

    • Quit being such a meanie Frank. Suzanne provides a great service for free. I doubt you have donated but obviously your eyes scan here often. I might agree with you a little on the Earnings Reserve except now would be the best time to have a “double dividend” before suspending the dividend program until the State can responsibly balance its budget.

  6. Well said. There are 59 people who needs to share your opinion and decision making. Some are clearly on board, but there are those who are not just an obstacle but a wall to compassion, caring and equality. .

  7. You can count on Alaska’s lawlesslature to double-down on their refusing to comply with the statute concerning the dividend. Sadly, though November is coming, most of the criminal element will be back in Juneau come next January. They have it figured out: Either we Alaskans like being robbed or we just don’t care.

    Prove them wrong!

  8. And this is why Mia Costello is a senator and I’m just an Alaskan emailing them. 😉 Well-said.

  9. What a perfect set of circumstances to solve 2 problems at once.
    I have long advocated to put an end to the Dividend with a final $3000 Dividend this year and then suspending the Dividend program for the foreseeable future.
    We have two problems of utmost importance:
    1. Coronavirus response.
    2. Imploding State budget revenues and worsening deficits.
    This solves them both.
    There is much more to my plan but this is the single most important act of the plan. I have outlined my entire plan here a number of times before but it is now lost in the ether of former comments.

    • Chris Nyman, that is merely your opinion. The dividend payout is paid to Alaska residents because it is their money, earned from the sale of public assets: assets owned by the people and not by the government or the politicians in Juneau. Many Alaskans depend on this to make ends meet, or to provide heat during the long winters. Who are you to deny them? Keep your stupid opinion to yourself, and stop advocating for making life harder on Alaskans. Or you can move to California, since your ideas mesh beautifully with their idiot governor.

  10. Former Governor Egan and Hammond Governor Hammond The Vault for assist bill to be the people’s money people of Alaska it should not be touched without the people of Alaska voting on it what is the new governors and those legislators don’t know that now the Permanent Fund I work for the state government they always have leftover from the previous years why doesn’t These funds go right back in to the general fund it would be less money going out to fund highways and bridges sidewalk School no these governments take what money is left over after the fiscal year and they blow it they go out by computers desk stuff like that in fact the legislators get more per diem then a state employee that does hard work manual labor when he goes out of town do not set forth with the legislators do not set forth with the governor if you want something done put it forth to the people to vote on skip the legislators skip the Senate does the people vote Yes on it do it if they say no don’t do it these funds that are funded for public works every year there’s always money left over and the state government they blow this money because they know they won’t get funded for next year why not take the excess money that’s left over and put it back right into the program instead of going out and just buying computers and stuff they don’t need the government is spoiled Highway worker has a more dangerous job an APD or a state trooper a standout they fight the weather they plow the snow more likely get hit by a vehicle Anna Publix officer will set forth let the people vote on what they want in the world we’re having today get rid of the special interest cut back on all these criminal investigations and accusations of politicians if we get rid of the accusations and the special interest groups and all these so sad investigations you would be surprised the money the people would save in this country set forth to the people we are the people we are the government we set forth to what we want the government to do but Seth 4th and never comes true the government always have somebody in their back pocket We the People have a dream in this world to become freedom how’s the world again not Democrats not Republicans not the Tea Party not the Independent party We the People let your voice be heard truly yours a person

  11. Yes, adding cash to the economy is good.
    But, please remember when you learned about MPC and MPS in econ class. Many Alaskans don’t need that $1,300, and so they’ll save it instead of spend it, which becomes lost/wasted stimulus money – especially if they buy discount stock with it right now. Instead of the PFD, you should be looking at how to funnel stimulus money directly to people more likely to spend it – low income and laid off people and small struggling businesses. Maybe put that money into the UI system and have it temporarily meet 100% of lost wages.

    • “Many Alaskans don’t need…”
      Don’t fall for that Marxism, my friend.
      It’s rude to renege on the rent simply because the tenant decides the landlord doesn’t “need” it.

      • MPC and MPS’s effects on the velocity of money and a generally strong economy are Keynesian ideas…
        Also, Marxian economics is based on value going to workers, and isn’t really addressing who needs versus doesn’t need resources per se.

        Please educate yourself on these things, you discredit all of us by spouting nonsense. In fact, I’m really fed up of the growing group on the right that generally has no idea what they’re talking about, we need to fix this…

  12. Absolutely the best thing for our money and the best thing for our economy. Also the best way to show government is doing what’s right for the people and listening since they are supposed to represent our needs (representative’s).Please be proactive not reactive for once the people are watching and elections are soon.

  13. I have said before, people are being laid off, waiters / waitress cannot work, but the lazy legislators are still drawing their paychecks, why don’t they forego their pay?

  14. “But we already know that with this health crisis comes a severe economic crisis.”
    No, productive Alaskans do not “know” this. They are continually bombarded by disinformation and outright lies from Alaska’s lobbyist-legislator team whose sole mission is Getting Money for its owners, the public employee union, education, and healthcare rackets.
    What would be helpful from Senator Costello is a bill mandating: (a) a forensic audit of state finances and management practices and (b) abolishment of the Alaska Municipal League, returning its $650M to the General Fund to be used, in part, for full PFD payments
    … (c) reading into the public record Jim Crawford’s articles about billions of taxpayer dollars Alaska cities and boroughs stashed in “rainy-day accounts”, (d) introducing a bill requiring state revenue-sharing to be reduced by the amount equal to these stashes, (e) accounting for interest payments earned by these and the AML hoards.
    We thank Senator Costello in advance for doing these things, facing inevitable political quarantine by incurring the wrath of Peoples Imperial Senate President and Co-Governor Giessel.

  15. What do they think they know what Alaska needs when they sure don’t listen to us! Pick click give for those that don’t feel they need it.

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