Most Alaskans' bank accounts will grow by $1,281 next month when the first of the 2010 Alaska Permanent Fund dividends will be distributed.
Gov. Sean Parnell, in a much anticipated announcement Tuesday, revealed the dividend amount, ripping it from a gold-sealed envelope in front of TV cameras. The annual dividend is paid from investment earnings from the state's $35.7-billion savings account.
The fund was created in 1976 as construction on the trans-Alaska pipeline neared completion and state residents anticipated "The Dilemma of Being Rich," according to a headline at the time.
The state had just experienced a construction boom brought on by a $900 million bonus payment from petroleum companies for oil discoveries at Prudhoe Bay. Alaskans by a 2-1 margin approved a constitutional amendment to set up a fund that could stretch out the next windfall for use by future generations.
Fund spokeswoman Laura Atchee said as of June 30, $14.7 billion had been put into the fund as a result of constitutionally required deposits, settlement money and $2.7 billion in special appropriations by the Alaska Legislature.
From that base, earnings since 1980 have allowed the fund to pay out $18.8 billion in dividends to Alaskans, counting the money to be distributed this year.
The dividends are an annual boon to Alaska's economy, which has fared far better than many other states amid the national economic slump. Alaska retailers have begun offering specials in anticipation of the checks, and the impact of the money spent is "very significant," said Revenue Commissioner Pat Galvin.
Nearly 641,600 Alaskans are getting dividends; 668,000 applied.
About $821.9 million is being paid out this year, with the dividend to eligible residents $24 less than they received in 2009.
Market performance affects the size of the payout. The amount of investment earnings allocated to dividends is based on a five-year rolling average of permanent fund performance.
The first dividends will be paid Oct. 7. More than 530,000 applicants will get a direct deposit into their bank accounts. About 85,000 applicants will be mailed a check.