More than 5,000 to be denied permanent fund dividends

Posted: Sunday, September 22, 2002

ANCHORAGE - The number of residents ineligible for Alaska Permanent Fund dividends because of criminal records will jump by 35 percent this year, according to Department of Revenue estimates.

The Permanent Fund Dividend Division estimates that 5,267 Alaskans lost their eligibility for checks. That's 1,436 more than were ineligible because of criminal convictions for 2000, about 0.84 percent of Alaska's population of 626,932 in the 2000 census.

Division officials calculated the changes by cross-referencing lists of Alaskans with names provided by the departments of corrections and public safety.

The jump is due mostly to a change legislators made in state law in 2001 that expanded the categories of misdeeds that make Alaskans ineligible for the checks.

Previously, Alaskans became ineligible if they were sentenced for a felony, if they spent at least a day in prison for a felony sentence, or if they were jailed for their third misdemeanor conviction during the dividend qualifying year.

Now, Alaskans convicted of a misdemeanor during the dividend qualifying year also are barred from dividends if they previously had been convicted of a felony - even if the felony was committed years before, and if all penalties had been paid and sentences served.

The more than $8 million saved by making convicts ineligible will not be divided among other Alaskans. Instead, it is designated for four state agencies: the Office of Victims' Rights, the Violent Crimes Compensation Board, the Department of Corrections, and the Council on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault.

The language expanding the list for losing a dividend was in a bill sponsored by Senate President Rick Halford, a Chugiak Republican, that established the Office of Victims' Rights. The office advocates on behalf of crime victims of felony offenses, or Class A misdemeanors involving domestic violence or assault.

By designating the dividend money for the boards and councils, the Legislature took money off the table for people owed money by prisoners, including their own children, said Larry Persily, Department of Revenue assistant commissioner.

The department's Child Support Enforcement Division collected $95 million from parents in arrears on child support in 2001, including $15 million in garnished dividends, a source not available for prisoners' children, Persily said.

"It's a big chunk of what we collect," Persily said.

The division collected $16.5 million from dividends the year before when the highest-ever dividend was paid.

The court system and municipal governments in Anchorage and Juneau were others among the other top 10 entities collecting dividends for debts.

The amount of the permanent fund dividend this year will be announced at the Permanent Fund Corp. annual dinner Wednesday night at Centennial Hall in Juneau. State officials have estimated the amount will be between $1,525 and $1,550.

Alaskans who signed up for direct deposit of checks will receive their money Oct. 9. All others will begin receiving checks Oct. 17. Complete distribution is expected to take two weeks.

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