PFD

One of the big questions I get is some form of do you get a PFD check. Other variations refer to this money (mostly inaccurately) as; government money, the money the government pays you to live there, resident money, and oil money.

The PFD, or Permeant Fund Dividend (not personal flotation device), was established in the mid 70’s as the pipeline was completed and the state began to see large profits from the oil. The initial investment was a portion (roughly 25%) of the “oil money” to be put aside. This saving for the future and conceptual understanding that oil, like many resources, may not last (or be as profitable) in the future was, in my opinion, a great insight by the government. That the plan has lasted effectively this long is even more incredible since it has had to remain untouched by lawmakers for the las 40 some years.

So the “Permanent” money did come from oil revenue but the money that is passed out does not. The permanent fund is invested and grown over the course of the year and the excess is then divided wholly equally* amongst those residents who apply.

* I say wholly but that is how it was until a cap was imposed this year. Now each resident can only be given up to $1020 and any excess goes to the state.

While I do approve of the foresight, ambition and general understanding of the market that this project uses, I do not approve of the use. While some Alaskans do use the money to help support a subsistence lifestyle or simply to help make ends meet, for others it causes trouble. Free money does not promote healthy financial development, responsibility or independence. Instead it encourages sloth, and vices which are difficult to break free from. This is a pit that traps many Alaskans.

From my own experience I see most of the students are given all or part of their dividend by their guardian. The excess money may be disruptive in class as we may have a 2nd grader waving a $100 bill around. Not only is it distracting but problems arise when money is lost or stolen. I therefore make it known around this time that if money is out I will hold onto it and the parents can come pick it up. That has solved most of the issue.

Harder to deal with is what the kids do with the money. As any kids would they spend it on, chip, pop, and candy. Between a sugar high and the possibility of a lack of structure at home if parents are the victims of vice, kids do not get proper sleep. They come to school tired, possibly on a sugar high which will crash at some point in the day, and very excited for Halloween which is about the same time.

Halloween only amplifies the problem. Kids are out late playing in masks, trick or treating on the actual day and eating enough candy to put them in a sugar coma. Then they come in to school and we are expected to provide high rigor instruction. Every teacher who has worked through the Halloween season will have some idea of what I am talking about here.

I will not say that I have a better idea of how the money should be used.  I could suggest things I think the money could be put to, but someone else would argue for something that they find important and in the end it would probably get split so many ways and lost in bureaucracy that it would do little good to anyone. Plus I don’t think simply removing the checks would solve the problem because of the dependance that has developed.

All this said, I finally got my check in November. To qualify you have to have lived in the state for at least 12 months prior to the application deadline (January-March, which I forgot to apply and missed this year). My first year I had only been in Alaska 6 months prior to application so I was not eligible. The second year (last year) I was able to apply but since the checks do not come out until the following October, I am into my 3rd year of teaching before I see a penny of the ‘1 year residency’ requirement money. I guess I should not complain since it is free.

Because of some paper work issues my check was on hold and I didn’t end up getting it until late November instead of the beginning of October when everyone else did. And this year I missed the cut off for application since I got distracted with family issues so I will not get one next year.

If I sound two sided it is because I am. I do not like what the PFD checks are doing to Alaska, but as long as they are here I would like my fair share. I like free money just like everyone else, but I can also recognize that that is part of the problem. The whole thing is a complicated mess and not one that is likely to clear up soon. So for the time being I will have to try to be a good example, spending responsibly and not becoming dependent. Although dependance in my  case would be difficult since getting the money is based on my living here and my housing is based on my job and my job provides money that keeps me from depending on the PFD.

 

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