ANCHORAGE - Alaskans are finding a welcome piece of mail this week along with the bills from their holiday spending sprees.
The state began sending out applications Monday for the Alaska Permanent Fund dividend. The applications must be returned to the Permanent Fund Division of the state Department of Revenue by March 31.
Missing that deadline could be an expensive mistake, since state law does not allow any grace period or extension.
About 350,000 of the booklets will be distributed through the mail and at various distribution points. For Juneau residents, these include the governor's office, legislative offices, the state library and the permanent fund office itself, on the eleventh floor of the State Office Building downtown. The office can fax copies of the booklet, or it can be downloaded from the Permanent Fund Website, which can be reached via Hot Links at jumpeauempire.com.
For most people, such measures shouldn't be necessary, said Paul Dick, chief of operations for the fund.
``We started distributing the booklets yesterday and I know friends and people I've talked to in Juneau have gotten theirs. They're in the mail,'' he said today.
Nancy Jones, director of the dividend division, agreed.
``I can't imagine why anyone in Juneau, or across the state for that matter, shouldn't be getting one,'' she said. ``It should be a matter of the postman delivering their mail.''
The amount of this year's dividend will be announced in September, with dividends paid out in October.
More than 575,000 Alaskans collected dividends of $1,769 each last year. The fund, the state's oil-wealth savings account, has paid out dividends since 1982.
The most basic requirement for eligibility is Alaska residency, Dick said.
``You have to be in Alaska unless you're on an allowable absence,'' he said. ``The two basic ones are student and military, and then there's some other assorted ones.''
A person can be absent from the state for up to 180 days without an allowable absence, Dick added.
``You can go on vacations and basically even be gone for half the year, but if you go over 180 days, to still be eligible you have to have this allowable absence,'' he said.
Those with allowed absences must return to the state for 72 consecutive hours every two years to still qualify, and must continue to list Alaska as their state of residency. Criminal convictions can also prohibit eligibility.
For more information about the Alaska Permanent Fund dividend, go to: www.revenue.state.ak.us/pfd.
Empire writer Genevieve Gagne-Hawes contributed to this report.