The flow of salmon into Alaska streams is beginning to ebb, leaves are changing color and snow has fallen on the Last Frontier, and that can mean only one thing: It's time for the annual Permanent Fund dividend guessing game to begin.
Alaska Dispatch News has crunched the numbers and come up with our prediction of the amount of this year's dividend check: $2,100 (give or take $50).
That's about $216 more than the 2014 check of $1,884.
If correct, this year's check would be the largest ever given out (unadjusted for inflation) to qualified Alaska residents who apply for the dividend each year. The smallest check came in the dividend's third year: 1984, when recipients got just $331.29 each.
The actual amount of this year's dividend check will be announced by the Alaska Department of Revenue and Gov. Bill Walker's office later this fall. Sara Race, the Permanent Fund Dividend Division director, said that usually happens in the third week of September.
A number of calculations went into our estimate of this year's dividend.
We arrived at our figure of $2,100 by starting with the amount of money the Alaska Permanent Fund Corp. – which manages the fund's $52.8 billion – put into the PFD account this year: $1,373,101,715.81 (the most in the fund's 34-year history).
But some money comes out of that account before checks are paid. This year, we deducted $17,724,700 for money that will be sent to the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services; $20,830,400 that will go to the Alaska Department of Corrections for inmates' health care; about $8,200,000 for the cost of running the PFD office; and another $800,000 that's put into a reserve to cover prior year dividend payments. All of those figures come straight from the Alaska Permanent Fund Corp. and the Dividend Division.
Add to that about $10 million left over in the account from last year (from unpaid dividends) and you come up with $1,335,546,615.81 -- the amount available for dividend checks.
Here's where the estimating begins in earnest.
This year, the PFD Division estimates that it has received 670,000 applications. But not everyone who applies for a dividend will get one. Each year, the PFD Division finds that many of the applicants are ineligible for dividend payments. The reasons vary but are most often a lack of residency or too much time spent Outside.
Over the fund's history, about 94.2 percent of people who applied have gotten a dividend. But a five-year average (taking the last five payout years, from 2010 to 2014) shows an acceptance rate of 92.58 percent.
If you use the straight historical average of 94.2 percent, then about 636,792 people are expected to get a dividend check this year. Using the five-year average, that number drops to 625,830.
Finally, divide the amount available for dividend ($1,335,546,615.81) by the number of people expected to get a check this year (either 636,792 or 625,830, depending on which average you use) and you will arrive at a range of $2,097.30 to $2,134.04, with a margin of error of about $50.
So, there you have it. You can expect about $2,100 from the state this year if you qualified and applied for a Permanent Fund dividend, but that doesn't mean you have to spend it all at once. Checks and direct deposits will go out on Thursday, Oct. 1.
* Correction: The story originally said checks and direct deposits would go out Thursday, Oct. 2. The actual date is Thursday, Oct. 1.
Alaska Dispatch Publishing