This article has been updated to correct a reference to a Permanent Fund Dividend distribution in 1971. The first dividend was distributed in 1982.
Kelsey Martin is eagerly awaiting her 3-year-old son’s first Permanent Fund dividend check, showing up first at what turned into a steady line at Juneau’s PFD office Tuesday morning to see why they’re not among those getting direct deposits on the first day of those payments.
Martin, who moved to Juneau with her family from Charlotte, North Carolina, said she showed up at the doors to the PFD office on the 11th floor of the State Office Building at 9 a.m., wrongly believing they opened an hour earlier than they actually do. The Permanent Fund Dividend Division offers an online FAQ (at pfd.alaska.gov/faq) where applicants can check their dividend status and get answers to common questions, but she opted for the in-person approach after learning her son’s direct deposit wasn’t being credited without knowing specifically why.
“I’m sure it will be fine,” she said. But “I guess I assumed there’d be a few folks” with similar inquiries, she said, prompting her early arrival.
Martin, as with most of the others in line, learned the dividends in question will be paid once various administrative details are resolved. But they’ll have to wait until paper checks are mailed starting Oct. 6 to receive the $3,284 checks that are a combination of the regular PFD plus a $650 energy relief payment approved by the Alaska State Legislature.
Leaving the office a few minutes after entering, she was cheerful in believing the matter was fixed and willing to wait for the second-largest divided in state history when adjusted for inflation, which she already has plans for.
“Pay off some bills and start a little college fund for him,” she said.
Many of the roughly 15 others who arrived during the first 20 minutes of the office’s opening were in and out just as quickly, despite the office only having two booths for staff, but with varying degrees of satisfaction about the delay in getting their dividends — often based on how they planned to spend the funds.
“I have to use it for emergency surgery and housing,” said Heather Warden, who said she’s been receiving PFDs for decades and getting them by direct deposit since 2010. But for some reason the deposit wasn’t credited this year, adding anxiety to her plans to address both needs.
Also less-than-thrilled was a man who, upon learning of the Oct. 6 check date, mused “I guess I gotta go Plan B, tell my creditors what’s going on” as he departed through the double glass doors.
Garrett Lathrop and his son, Grant, were waiting in line because it appears their entire family isn’t getting the direct deposits they expected — their first dividends after moving from South Dakota in January of 2020. Grant said he checked with his bank on Monday and was told no deposits were pending, prompting him and his dad to show up as soon as the PDF office opened.
“I wasn’t notified (about the missing deposit) so I thought others might have the same problem,” he said. “That’s why I got here as early as I did.”
The younger Lathrop said he plans to put most of his dividend into savings, while the father said he plans to pay off debt.
A similar problem prompted the early in-person visit by Sheena James, a lifelong Alaska resident who said the deposits for her and her three children weren’t listed as credited.
“I tried calling and nobody’s ever answered or they said they were closed,” she said.
James said she plans to pay bills with her dividend while starting savings accounts for her two younger children, while her oldest son at age 11 is planning to travel to Hawaii with other family members.
She said the size of this year’s dividend is appreciated, but it’s an exception to the trend she’s seen with payments in recent years.
“When I was my son’s age they used to be this size,” she said, referring to dividends around the year 2000 that were roughly $2,500 to $3,100 when adjusted for inflation, compared to about $1,000 to $1,700 the past several years. “Now they’re tiny.”
• Contact reporter Mark Sabbatini at email@example.com