ANCHORAGE - Hundreds of Alaskans chose to welcome the New Year with fingers poised over a computer keyboard, eager to apply for the 2009 Permanent Fund dividend.
The application period opened at 12:01 a.m. Thursday.
Deborah Bitney, director of the Permanent Fund Dividend Division, says by 2:47 p.m. Thursday, the count at the PFD Web site was 18,634.
By 6:14 p.m., it had ballooned to 26,772.
There's no obvious advantage to applying extra early. The advantage in terms of collecting the dividend goes to those who apply any time in January for direct deposit of the money into a bank account.
The deadline for applying is March 31.
People who request direct deposit will get the money in early October; paper checks will be mailed in November.
Last year, recipients received $2,069, not counting the $1,200 energy rebate add-on. The dividend is calculated by averaging investment profits of the Permanent Fund for five years.
This year a charitable contributions checkoff is available only to those filing online.
The checkoff allows recipients who submit online applications to have part or all of their dividend sent to one or more listed nonprofit groups.