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PUBLISHED: 4:09 PM on Wednesday, October 4, 2006
PFD is a pretty fair deal

I still remember the sales pitch that helped bring me to Juneau two years ago:

"And you do get paid to live in Alaska."

That was how one of my employers introduced me to the concept of the Permanent Fund Dividend, Alaska's unique program to give back to its citizens from the wealth and windfall of our non-renewable resources.

This week a lot of happy bank accounts will be getting this year's PFD check direct deposited today.

Since there's a check for every qualified man, woman and child, it can be a nice chunk of change for a family with several children.

At least, it will for those who took advantage of the early-bird registration back in January and got the first direct deposits sent out this week.

The PFD news is mostly good. After several years of declining dividends, caused by losses from the fund's investments, this year's $1,106.96 check is a nice increase, substantially up from last year's $845.76.

Is that PFD check going to make all the difference for my family's household income this year?

Nope.

It'll likely go into the seemingly bottomless reservoir of needs for our youngest child's college education, freeing up at least a few bucks of play money for our household.

But for a substantial portion of Alaskan families, it makes all the difference.

This year is especially trying for families in our smaller, more remote villages, who are living much of the year by subsistence and who are paying staggering sums for basic necessities like heating oil and gas.

While the larger PFD check certainly hasn't kept up with heating oil prices, it doesn't hurt.

The PFD is a huge boost for Alaskan businesses. That influx of cash, after the tourist season and leading into the long winter that spells unemployment or under-employment for many of our citizens, comes at an important time.

In today's Capital City Weekly and throughout this month you'll see many of our local businesses advertising substantial PFD discounts and specials.

If you've been waiting for your PFD check to make a special purchase, I'd heartily encourage you to spend that extra cash with our Southeast Alaska businesses.

Keeping a strong, engaged, profitable base of local business owners and citizen businesses is critical to the vitality of our community.

These are the local businesses that support our charities, encourage our children, and pay our local sales taxes that provide services from police and fire departments, to our public schools.

They deserve our support, especially in a challenging business year when more and more of our income is going to pay for energy-related costs.

In the end, the PFD check is really recognition that our state is different, is special - as are those of us who choose to call it home.

Leschper is general manager of the Capital City Weekly, advertising director of the Juneau Empire and regional advertising director of Morris Communications / Alaska. Email him at lee.leschper@juneauempire.com.


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