As of Jan. 15, over 142,000 Alaskans had filed applications for the 2022 Permanent Fund dividend.
Alaska may — according to official counts — have about 733,583 citizens, which means about 19% of eligible Alaskans have already filed. The deadline to file is 11:59 pm on March 31.
Last year’s Permanent Fund dividend check was $3,284.
What is the Permanent Fund dividend? Because Alaska has so little private land and private landowners don’t own subsurface rights, the dividend represents citizens’ share of mineral resources.
In 1976, Alaska voters pass a constitutional amendment establishing the Permanent Fund itself. In 1980, the legislation creating the Permanent Fund dividend was signed into law by Gov. Jay Hammond. The law established a program giving every adult Alaska resident $50 for every year of residency since statehood in 1959 and also established a dividend Fund. That formula was challenged in court, and ultimately resolved with a law that gives everyone the same amount, so long as they have met basic residency requirements of having lived in Alaska for a full year before filing for a dividend.
Over the years since 1982’s first $1,000 dividend, the Permanent Fund has provided $26,013,283,431.43 to Alaskans.
In 2011, the highest number of applications were approved and paid — 644,959 of the 677,888 applications received. The state population was 722,000 at the time.
In 2012, the highest number of applications were received: 679,633. Of those, 641,644 were paid; the dividend amount that year was $848.
A person who has received a dividend every year from 1982 to 2022 would have gained nearly $48,000, which could have established enormous wealth for the individuals who had invested the money, rather than spent it as it came in. But many Alaskans use the annual fund, which comes just as winter sets in in October, for food, heating fuel, and college tuition.
It’s important to remember that the $1,000 paid in 1982 was unusually large back in the day, due to the lawsuit that delayed the first payout from the year prior. But if today’s dividend were to be equivalent to that first check, Alaskans would get $3,100, because of the average rate of inflation of 2.78% per year, for a cumulative inflation of 207.56%.
The payout amount is supposed to be calculated by statutory formula, based on a five-year return on the Permanent Fund investments. But since Bill Walker was governor and vetoed half of the Permanent Fund dividend, courts decided that the amount is simply another appropriation, and can be negotiated and vetoed. Because of that fateful decision, the Alaska Legislature spends most of its time arguing about the amount that the dividend should be, and the argument has spilled over into Alaska’s culture. The dividend has become the political football in a game that never seems to end, since Walker vetoed part of the statutory dividend in 2016.
The Permanent Fund has grown to about $77 billion, and a new statute, passed in 2018 and signed into law by Gov. Walker, established a percent of market value, or POMV, draw from the Earnings Reserve Account of the then-$65 billion corpus, which drains off some of the earnings reserve to fund the state budget.
In the past few years, the amount of the Permanent Fund has experienced the same market forces that have impacted other investment funds, reaching as high as nearly $82 billion in 2021, before hovering in the mid-70 billion dollars for the past year, including corpus and earnings reserve account.
The PFD offices around the state will be closed on Monday, Jan. 16, in observance of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a state holiday.
For those who like to file in person, the division offices will be open to the public on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 10 am – 4 pn, except for state holidays. The PFD offices will be closed to the public on Thursdays.
Links that Alaskans can use to learn more and file for their dividends are here.