Alaskan Residents Unhappy With Amount Of Their “Free Money” Check This Year


In this Sept. 23, 2016 photo, resident Quamaundya Elliott discusses her reaction to the upcoming distribution of dividend checks from the state's oil wealth fund in Anchorage, Alaska. Gov. Bill Walker capped the amount of this year's checks to most Alaskans to $1,022 because of the state's multibillion-dollar budget deficit amid low oil prices. The checks, which had been expected to be more than twice that amount, will be distributed beginning Oct. 6. (AP Photo/Rachel D'Oro)

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) – Yes, you could call it free money. 

Folks were looking at getting more than twice that amount.

But that doesn’t mean all Alaskans are happy about the $1,022 dividend checks nearly every resident will receive starting Thursday from the state’s oil wealth fund.

In this Sept. 23, 2016 photo, resident Jerry Wolf discusses his reaction to the upcoming distribution of dividend checks from the state's oil wealth fund in Anchorage, Alaska. Gov. Bill Walker capped the amount of this year's checks to most Alaskans to $1,022 because of the state's multibillion-dollar budget deficit amid low oil prices. The checks, which had been expected to be more than twice that amount, will be distributed beginning Oct. 6. (AP Photo/Rachel D'Oro)
In this Sept. 23, 2016 photo, resident Jerry Wolf discusses his reaction to the upcoming distribution of dividend checks from the state’s oil wealth fund in Anchorage, Alaska. Gov. Bill Walker capped the amount of this year’s checks to most Alaskans to $1,022 because of the state’s multibillion-dollar budget deficit amid low oil prices. The checks, which had been expected to be more than twice that amount, will be distributed beginning Oct. 6. (AP Photo/Rachel D’Oro)

Folks were looking at getting more than twice that amount.

“It’s really putting the hurt on my community,” said Joel James, mayor of the tiny Yup’ik Eskimo village of Gambell, which, like many remote communities around the vast state, is plagued by chronic unemployment and astronomical living expenses. “I’m definitely disappointed.”

Each year, residents get the checks from the Alaska Permanent Fund, a reward of sorts for living here at least a full calendar year.

In this Sept. 23, 2016 photo, a sign advertising Alaska Permanent Fund dividend deals offered by a local mattress store is shown in Anchorage, Alaska. Gov. Bill Walker capped the amount of this year's checks to most Alaskans to $1,022 because of the state's multibillion-dollar budget deficit amid low oil prices. The checks, which had been expected to be more than twice that amount, will be distributed beginning Oct. 6. (AP Photo/Rachel D'Oro)
In this Sept. 23, 2016 photo, a sign advertising Alaska Permanent Fund dividend deals offered by a local mattress store is shown in Anchorage, Alaska. Gov. Bill Walker capped the amount of this year’s checks to most Alaskans to $1,022 because of the state’s multibillion-dollar budget deficit amid low oil prices. The checks, which had been expected to be more than twice that amount, will be distributed beginning Oct. 6. (AP Photo/Rachel D’Oro)

It’s fun money for some, with businesses offering highly advertised dividend deals. For others, it’s a way to make ends meet. The amount of the annual checks is based on a five-year average of the multibillion-dollar fund, and they took a hit when recession years were part of the formula, with $900 checks issued in 2013 before payouts rebounded again.

Last year, the amount for every person was a record $2,072. And this year, the check was estimated to be even higher at about $2,100. That is, until Gov. Bill Walker stepped in and shrunk the amount because of the state’s multibillion-dollar budget deficit, a situation exacerbated by low oil prices.

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