Alaskans might be cursing the $1,000 and change they lost when Gov. Bill Walker, possibly illegally, decided to veto more than $666 million headed for the Permanent Fund Dividend account this year.
But individuals Alaska are far from the biggest losers. Even that proverbial family of 10, which would have lost a healthy $10,250 in anticipated income, looks to be a small-potato player when compared to government agencies trying to use the PFD to collect debts.
Hunting in prime habitat for the Common American Deadbeat, they long ago latched onto the PFD as a potential treasure trove of hundreds of millions of dollars.
PFD Director Sara Race appeared to be in hiding on Monday (neither phone messages nor emails were returned), so 2016 data on the number and value of seized PFDs is unavailable, but it is likely to be similar to 2015 which was similar to 2014 which was similar to 2013.
And all posted big, big numbers in claims for PFDs.
Last year, more than 400,000 applications were filed asking the state to garnishee PFDs to the tune of more than $772 million. That’s $100 million more than Walker vetoed this year.
But the state only approved about $84 million in claims. A similar number would have been expected this year, but Walker cut it in half.
Too bad for Uncle Sam the Tax Man.
The U.S. Treasury led the way in the PFD hunt last year. It filed 9,500 claims seeking more than $183 million that Alaska residents, or former Alaska residents, owed in income or employment taxes. The state was not all that helpful. It paid out only about $11 million on 6,900 claims.
The Alaska Department of Law did better. It filed more than 173,000 requests asking for about $80 million to cover fines, delinquent taxes and attorney fees. It was awarded just less than $11 million in connection with 53,000 approved claims.
The pattern was repeated for the Municipality of Anchorage and the Department of Labor, number three and four, on the state’s list of “Top Ten Agency Filers.” Anchorage asked for just a hair over $21 million and collected $4.5 million. Labor wanted $13 million and got $3.2 million to cover fines and delinquent debts.
The big winner on the list was the state’s Child Support Services Division which asked for $10 million to cover claims against 9,082 deadbeat parents not making child-support payments. The Division was awarded more than $14.5 million on 9,082 claims. It appears to be the only entity that got more than requested.
Behind it on that dubious top-10 list of angry creditors was the University of Alaska, $4 million requested, $2.1 million granted; the City & Borough of Juneau, $1.5 million requested, $460,000 granted; and the City of Wasilla, $400,000 requested; $220,000 granted.
So much for those “Valley Trash” accusations. Valley folks appear more responsible about their debts than residents of Anchorage. Along with the Wasilla debt filings on PFDs being small, the Matanuska-Susitna Borough didn’t even make the top-10 list.
Every entity on that list would have been in line to collect similar payments this year had not Walker cut the PFD in half. The data would indicate the cut could cost parents with children more than in $7 million in delinquent child-care payments.
Walker’s action is also likely to put some strain on state and local housing agencies.
The PFD Division report notes “state statutes permit applicants to assign their dividend to a government agency or regional housing authority created under Alaska Statute 18.55.996. Any amount in excess of the liability due the assigned agency is paid to the applicant.”
A variety of rural housing authorities have used these pass-through payments to help keep people in housing. The Association of Village Council Presidents (AVCP) Regional Housing Authority in Bethel used PFDs to subsidize almost $300,000 rent. The total came to ab0ut $280,000 for the Bering Straits Regional Housing Authority in Nome. The Tlingit-Haida Regional Housing Authority in Southeast Alaska collected $163,000.
A variety of other authorities got smaller amounts. All will get about half as much this year.