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Alaskans' Permanent Fund dividend may shrink to less than $800 this year

Jerzy Shedlock
Residents of the Last Frontier can expect an Alaska Permanent Fund dividend of less than $800 this year -- the lowest payout since 2005. iStock photo

As the deadline for the Alaska Permanent Fund dividend approaches, Alaskans are growing eager for the "free money." But don't expect a whopping amount this year. The 2013 dividend likely will be less than $800.

Laura Achee, the Alaska Permanent Fund Corp.'s communications director, emphasized the projection is a "very rough estimate." Last year's check of $878 was the lowest payout since 2005.

Achee said the corporation projects the Permanent Fund dividend to increase to $1,300 to $1,400 in 2014.

The Permanent Fund is calculated using a five-year, rolling average of returns on investments -- domestic and overseas stocks, real estate, bonds, infrastructure projects and stakes in privately-held companies.

In March 2009, the U.S. stock market bottomed out. That lowpoint on Wall Street is partially to blame for the Permanent Fund's most difficult year. The fund, 20 percent of which is composed of U.S. stocks, had a negative return of 18 percent on investments.

The corporation's fiscal year 2013 is the last year the Permanent Fund will be calculated using the returns from 2009.

The largest dividend came in 2008. It totaled $2,069, with an additional $1,200 tacked onto thanks to then-Gov. Sarah Palin's energy rebate to Alaskans.

Jerzy Shedlock can be reached at jerzy(at)jerzyshedlock.com