Not many people get a check just for the act of living and breathing. But there's at least one place where that's the case. Scott Thuman takes us there.
The following is a transcript of a report from "Full Measure with Sharyl Attkisson." Watch the video by clicking the link at the end of the page.
With its mountain ranges, glaciers and wilderness, Alaska is rightly known as the Last Frontier.
Bigger than Texas, California, and Montana combined, but with a population of just 725 thousand.
Living here, especially in the winter, can be tough and expensive with so much having to be shipped in. Though, at least there’s a financial benefit that comes from being a resident.
The State of Alaska actually pays its people. Except for felons, every resident from newborns to seniors gets a check each fall. This year’s: 1,114 dollars.
Here in Kotzebue. a small native community inside the Arctic Circle, folks like Frank and Esther Davidovices sitting retired, outside their small fish camp, tell us, it’s a lifeline.
Esther Davidovices: It just make lots of people happy. I mean, they buy food for their kids and pay rent and everything.
Scott: But you need it, right , living here is expensive?
Frank Davidovices: Look at the prices. Look at the gallon of milk, it's expensive.
Calling life here ‘expensive’ is an understatement. At the local supermarket, the prices are eye-watering.
Bread at $8.99
For a quarter gallon of milk: $4.99
And a simple can of soup, three times what you’d pay in the lower 48 states.
Here, grocery bills can easily be 50 percent higher than the national average.
And utilities, even more, says Sonny Hadley out for errands on his ATV.
Sonny Hadley: I fill up my fuel tank and I'll be okay for all the way until February, March.
Scott: So, you need that money to heat the house?
Hadley: Yeah, I use it, and my daughter puts part of her dividend into the house also. It helps out a lot.
So where does all that cash come from? In a word: oil. Significant reserves were first identified in the 1950’s, and by the early 70’s the state treasury was taking in millions, prompting lawmakers to create a savings account funded by oil to preserve Alaska’s wealth.
As of late this year, the so-called ‘Permanent Fund’ was worth more than $80 billion.
And since 1982, yearly dividend checks have been sent to residents
Scott: You've got large companies from around the world that come in here and get their hands on this oil.
Scott: So, do you think it's only fair that you all get a cut of that?
Davidovices: It's fair, yeah. It's nice, because we own that land, Alaska, and everything. And they get the royalties and give everybody a chunk of it, which is nice.
Another way Alaska, beyond those beautiful views, continues to stand out.
For Full Measure, I’m Scott Thuman in Kotzebue.
Sharyl (on-camera): One note: a recent downturn in fortune for America’s oil industry, with oil production now on the decline, some Alaska politicians insist it’s time for big changes including adding an income tax.