Many people who are curious or who are considering moving to Alaska have often heard something about us Alaskans literally getting paid to live here.
Is it true? If so, how much do you get paid? Why does this happen and how long will it last?
In this article I, a lifelong Alaskan, will answer these questions and set the record straight so you know exactly what to expect when it comes to getting paid to live in Alaska.
The purpose of this article is to simply answer the question “Do You Get Paid To Live In Alaska?” So many people have wondered this and within this article we simply lay out the facts.
Does the PFD pay a living wage? Of course not! Can you survive in Alaska with this PFD? Of course not! Is Alaska expensive? Yes! Gas and food are great examples. You can pay 30%+ on these items compared to the lower 48. So does the PFD cover your living cost? Of course not!
If you’re interested in this question, we try to lay out the facts of getting paid to live in Alaska. It’s something that is asked quite often because people hear about it but don’t know the facts. And while many other websites talk about it, they make it seem like you can live in Alaska on this “free” money, which isn’t “free” money, nor should you base moving to Alaska on getting the PFD.
You also have to qualify for the PFD and apply for it every single year. So to be clear, we aren’t advocating for people to move to Alaska just so you can get paid.
Is it True? Do You Actually Get Paid To Live In Alaska?
The answer is… kind of!
Since June 14th 1982 the State’s Permanent Fund Dividend (PFD) program has been providing resident Alaskans with a once-a-year financial windfall of varying amounts based on the investment earnings of oil reserves. The program was started because State officials knew that oil reserves would not last forever, and so they wanted to make sure that, every year, at least 25% of the oil money would be put into a dedicated fund for future generations.
So although you are not being paid regular sums throughout the year, and the money won’t be around forever, it is true that you can receive a nice bonus every year in the Fall.
How Much Do You Get Paid To Live In Alaska?
This is perhaps the most asked question I ever get about the PFD program and is also the hardest to answer, but I will break it down as simply as possible.
The two factors that ultimately determine what every single Alaskan will receive each year is based on the number of applicants (you must apply each year for the PFD but more on that later) and the amount of money in the Permanent Fund itself.
There have been government stimulus checks, pandemic payments, and other rare occasions where the PFD was supplemented by other means but this is infrequent.
For example, in 2022 the PFD amount was $2,622 along with a rare additional $662 energy rebate making for a $3,284 total payout.
Only a year prior in 2021 however, it was much less at $1,114. To further confuse matters, starting in 2016 the original 1982 formula for calculating the PFD has been largely ignored due to difficult state budget choices and the pandemic.
Yet, historically, the PFD has always had its ups and downs and this can easily be observed by taking a look at the last 7 years:
Amount Paid To Alaska Residents By Year
|PFD Year||Percentage Change||PFD Amount|
Having a rise of 194.8% from the previous year is certainly exciting. A year with a change of only 3.7% from the last might make the PFD amount seem predictable, but then a sudden loss of -50.7% can be quite the disappointment!
The PFD amount is always a hot topic in Alaska, especially mid-year when they get close to an official announcement. A good PFD year might allow you and your family to take a vacation or, if you are a business, the cash infusion hitting hundreds of thousands of bank accounts might allow you to survive to the next year.
It is such a huge topic, that almost all major and minor political campaigns in the state run on slogans like “Protecting Your PFD” and almost all businesses have outrageous Black Friday style PFD sales.
At the end of the day though, even if unpredictable, every successful applicant in Alaska currently receives something once every year.
Why Do You Get Paid To Live In Alaska?
As mentioned previously, the State of Alaska created the Permanent Fund to help support future generations of Alaskans, as well as to protect future government financial stability, once oil reserves run out.
It also has become a powerful tool to lure new workers and people into the state’s economy.
There is no denying the modern benefits from bringing more people to the state to support our economy, especially as so many have been leaving the state in recent years.
In fact, since 2012, every single year, more people have left the state than have moved here. So, keeping the Permanent Fund healthy and active is of vital importance to help curb further population losses.
Additionally, had the program not also resulted in a regular and significant surge in local spending, investments, college funds, charities, and more, it may not have survived at all.
Simply put, we get paid (via the PFD) to live in Alaska, because it benefits Alaskans, their businesses, the government, and all of our financial futures.
How Do You Qualify And Apply For The PFD
Now that you know what the PFD is and why we here in Alaska get it; how do you qualify to receive it and where do you apply?
The rules are simple, to be eligible for a PFD, you must have been an Alaska resident for the entire calendar year preceding the date you apply for a dividend, and you must intend to remain an Alaska resident indefinitely at the time you apply for a dividend.
So you can’t just physically be present in Alaska and be rewarded with free money unfortunately. You will need to be invested in living here for the long term.
Fortunately, there are many easy ways for someone to provide this information, all of the following are acceptable ways to provide proof of intent to reside here indefinitely and qualify for the PFD according to the State of Alaska:
- Proof of Moving Household Belongings to Alaska
- Lease or rental agreement in applicant’s name, signed by the applicant; cancelled rent checks or rental receipts
- Proof of Purchasing a home (mortgage statement, escrow papers)
- Moorage/Boat Harbor fees for primary residence vessel
- Employment Proof (W2, paystub)
- An Alaska Driver’s License, ID or Instructional Permit
- Vehicle Registration (Automobile or Truck)
- State of Alaska benefits that require a claim of residency in Alaska (Senior Benefits, Chronic and Acute Medical Assistance, General Relief, Interim Assistance, Alaska Housing, Energy Assistance, Old Age Assistance)
- Voter Registration
Furthermore, once you have proven that you are planning to remain in Alaska indefinitely, you can’t just leave for long periods of time and expect to keep receiving the PFD.
If you are absent for more than 180 days for a reason other than one specifically listed in Alaska Statute 43.23.008(a), you will not be eligible for a dividend.
There are exceptions for healthcare related travel, military, and other reasons but ultimately all of these rules were created to ensure people are enticed to move and stay here with Alaska as their new home.
Once you qualify, it’s time to apply! The process used to be a complicated in person or mail in process, but is now completely automated online.
Adults will establish a myAlaska account (a convenient State run system for managing many licenses and services all in one place) and electronically sign for yourself and any children in the household (that’s right kids qualify too).
Establishing a myAlaska account does not automatically sign you up for the PFD though, and that will need to be done separately on the website once you are logged in.
There are also local Permanent Fund offices located in Alaska’s three largest cities. This can be an easier option for the first time enrollment for new residents as it can get pretty document heavy.
If you are planning on moving to Alaska, or just generally have questions about getting your hands on a PFD, they are a great resource to reach out to.
Permanent Fund Offices:
- Anchorage – (907) 269-0370
- Fairbanks – (907) 451-2820
- Juneau – (907) 465-2326
How Much Will You Get Paid To Live In Alaska In 2023 And The Future Of The PFD?
As stated earlier in this article, predicting the PFD amount every year is a real challenge and there are many factors that influence the final number.
However, we do have some information that could help us get at least an educated guess to what it might be.
Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy released his 2024 budget on December 15th 2022, which included a full PFD payment based on the 1982 formula that has been largely ignored since 2016.
Then later in a press release, Dunleavy projected this would end up likely creating a very generous $3,800 – 2023 PFD payout. This budget still requires legislative approval and is not only subject to change, but based on previous year’s volatile PFD related arguments, almost certainly will.
With high oil prices from the previous two years and significant State investment returns, it should be higher than average.
As far as the future of the PFD in Alaska, there has been much discussion and debate. The PFD and how it is managed is not currently included/protected in Alaska’s constitution.
There are many people in favor of keeping it that way, and many who are not. Since the PFD’s inception in the 1980’s this has been deliberated upon with no clear consensus for how it should be managed constitutionally.
It has been discussed that reducing PFD amounts or abolishing the PFD outright in favor of reducing taxes and significantly increasing public services could be a path forward, but has been met with a great deal of criticism and low public backing.
On the other hand, increasing the amount of the PFD by splitting more of what is in the fund with Alaskans (a 50/50 split between Alaskans and the government is a current proposal) could either be a great boon to us all, or a failure if high oil prices do not continue.
Getting Paid To Live In Alaska: Alaska’s Unique PFD And Final Thoughts
Since 1982 every qualified Alaskan resident does indeed get paid just for living here, once-a-year, in the form our truly unique Permanent Fund Dividend disbursements.
There are rules and regulations, the amount changes wildly, and no one is quite sure how to manage it sustainably for the future. However, as of right now, the PFD is here to stay and on track to have some of the highest payouts in its history.
If you are moving to Alaska, or thinking about the pros and cons of living here, know that the PFD won’t cover your basic living costs for the year or even month to month.
It is meant to be a temporary financial infusion every year, but one that can certainly help even out the higher cost of living in Alaska, net you the cost of family vacation, help pay for your kid’s college, or even be donated to your favorite charity.
As a lifelong Alaskan, I can certainly attest that after a long summer traveling all over the state and running my personal financial reserves low doing my photography/film work, that the PFD is certainly a welcomed sight!
Have other questions about getting paid to live in Alaska? Let us know in the comments below!