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Size of 2014 PFD checks may double from 2013's $900

Sean Doogan

The Alaska Permanent Fund Corp. predicts the size of the annual dividend check that qualifying Alaskans will receive this year will be considerably more than the $900 checks distributed in 2013, and may approach the all-time record.

"I think the punchline is that the dividend is going to be right about doubling from last year," said Mike Burns, the executive director of APFC.

That could mean a 2014 check of $1,500-$2,000, depending on how the final numbers work out, according to Burns. The largest Permanent Fund payout in history was the $2,069 paid in 2008; the least was the $331 paid in 1984, the third year of Permanent Fund distributions. 

The reason for the big bump in money Alaskans will get this fall: The 2009 fiscal year has dropped out of the five-year rolling average used to calculate the amount of money going toward dividends. The Alaska Permanent Fund Corp. -- the state agency that runs and manages the fund, now estimated at about $53 billion -- uses fiscal years, which run from July 1 to June 30, in its calculations.

In 2009, much of the nation was still in a deep recession. That year marked the only time that the permanent fund, which has issued checks to Alaskans every year since 1982, showed a net statutory loss. Burns said in fiscal year 2009, the fund lost about $2.5 billion. With that year now out of the picture, Burns said, the dividend calculation jumped.

"Even if this year had seen flat growth, we would have still gotten about a 50 percent increase in the amount of money available for dividends because of dropping 2009 from the average," Burns said.

Burns said the disbursement -- the amount of money sent to the PFD office each year -- will be made within the next few days. After managers there deduct legislatively mandated withdrawals from the disbursement, the remaining money will be divided up by the number of Alaskans whose dividend applications were filed and accepted earlier this year.

People with direct deposit are the first to see the money -- typically distributed in the fall. Paper checks go in the mail the same day. This year, that day will be Oct. 2.

Alaskans received a total of $568.3 million in Permanent Fund dividends last year.

The Alaska Permanent Fund -- created by an amendment to the state constitution in 1979 -- gets money from the state's share of oil revenues. But the fund itself is managed like a large investment fund, including holdings in real estate, stocks, bonds and mutual funds. Net profits, including the loss or gain realized from the sale of assets, real estate rents and interest, are averaged over the previous five-year period to come up with the amount available for dividend checks in a given year.

Contact Sean Doogan at sean@alaskadispatch.com.

Correction: An earlier version of this article reported that Alaskans who select a paper check receive their dividends a few weeks after direct deposits are made. According to the Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend Division, checks are mailed on the same day direct deposits are made.