ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — It's not much — $878 — but Sina Takafua isn't balking at her first annual payout from Alaska's oil savings account.
"I'm just happy. It's free money," she said of the amount she'll receive just for living in the state, in her case the northernmost town of Barrow.
State officials on Tuesday announced the amount of Alaska Permanent Fund dividends to be distributed Oct. 4 to all men, women and children who have lived in the state for at least a year. This time around, that's nearly 647,000 people.
This year's amount is the lowest since 2005 and the ninth-lowest in the program that began three decades ago. Last year's dividend was $1,174.
Officials attribute the decrease to the five-year formula used to calculate the yearly dividend. Alaska Revenue Commissioner Bryan Butcher said the formula will stay depressed through next year. After that, officials can stop figuring in performance from 2009, when the fund lost billions in the stock market dive.
"As long as that year is part of the five-year calculation, it's going to be a little low," Butcher said.
Like others surveyed in rural parts of the state, Takafua had planned to use her dividend to pay bills. But Tuesday she said she was sending it all to her mother in Hawaii. "She'll appreciate it," Takafua said.
Some customers at the local fur shop where Takafua works are going for warmth — and style. They're already pre-ordering parkas made of caribou, wolverine and other furs.
"They're waiting for their PFD to pay for them," said Takafua, who moved to Alaska from Maui, Hawaii, with her two sons in 2010. Her husband joined the family later, so he's not yet eligible for a dividend like they are.
New residents must live in Alaska for one calendar year to benefit from the permanent fund, which was established in 1976 after North Slope oil was discovered.