The Valdez Star - Serving Prince William Sound and Copper River Basin

By BECKY BOHRER
Associated Press 

Dividends shared by Alaskans in record numbers

Officials sees increase in donations even in low payout years

 


The manager of a program that lets people donate money from their Alaska Permanent Fund dividends to nonprofits is optimistic they'll continue giving in record numbers if the dividend's size is reduced.

While any Alaskan receiving a dividend can donate as small or as large a portion of their free cash as they'd like to any charity certified to receive "Pick, Click, Give" funds, the list of non-profit organizations and charities in Valdez is large and donations are very much appreciated.

Jason Grenn said each year more Alaskans have donated through "Pick.Click.Give," and total donations have grown. In 2009, the program's first year, he said about 5,000 Alaskans gave $545,000 to nonprofits. Last year, more than 33,000 Alaskans gave a total of $3.3 million.

Even in 2012 and 2013, recent years in which dividends were below $1,000, Grenn said the program saw increases.

The Permanent Fund is central to Gov. Bill Walker's proposal to address the state's multibillion-dollar budget deficit. Walker has proposed overhauling the way in which the state budgets, including putting oil tax revenue into the Permanent Fund, rather than budgeting around the volatile tax revenue. Money generated by the fund would help pay for state government. But the approach would change how dividends are calculated and put this year's dividend at $1,000. Last year's payout was $2,072.

The average payout over the life of the dividend is about $1,150.

Sara Race, director of the Permanent Fund Dividend Division, said over the past two years there's been a trend in applicants waiting until later in the filing period to submit their applications. The filing period opened Jan. 1 and ends March 31.

For last year's filing period, the number of applications that the division received was significantly lower than in 2014 until March, Race wrote in an email. Total applications ultimately received and processed last year exceeded 2014 by about 1,700, she wrote.

At one point Thursday morning, there was a lag of about 13,500 applications compared to last year, she said. The division keeps a running tally on its website of applications filed.

Grenn said the average gift through "Pick.Click.Give" is about $90 to $100 of someone's dividend. The option to donate is available for those applying for their dividends online.

The program has received support from the Rasmuson Foundation, which recently launched a statewide campaign aimed at explaining to Alaskans the need to address the state's budget problems. Grenn said that initiative is separate from "Pick.Click.Give."

 

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