Alaska will send oil-wealth checks early because of virus

FILE - In this March 12, 2020 file photon Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy speaks during a news conference in Anchorage, Alaska. Dunleavy has announced that checks from the state's oil-wealth fund will begin going out to residents three months early, citing economic hardships related to the coronavirus. (AP Photo/Mark Thiessen,File)
FILE - In this March 12, 2020 file photon Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy speaks during a news conference in Anchorage, Alaska. Dunleavy has announced that checks from the state's oil-wealth fund will begin going out to residents three months early, citing economic hardships related to the coronavirus. (AP Photo/Mark Thiessen,File) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

JUNEAU, Alaska – Checks from Alaska's oil-wealth fund will begin going out to residents three months early, Gov. Mike Dunleavy said, citing economic hardships caused by the coronavirus.

He called these “extraordinary times.”

“We need to make sure that people of Alaska have cash in their hands to help with this economy,” Dunleavy, a Republican, said Wednesday evening.

This year's check is expected to be about $1,000 and Dunleavy's office said the Permanent Fund Dividend Division, which determines annual eligibility for the checks, has received more than 670,000 applications.

The division estimates nearly 600,000 people will receive payment on July 1. Payments will be made later for others as their eligibility is confirmed.

Residents must meet residency requirements to qualify for the checks, which typically start going out in the fall. Traditionally, dividends have been paid with earnings from the oil-wealth fund, the Alaska Permanent Fund. This year’s payout is being paid in part from a state savings account.

State Senate Minority Leader Tom Begich, an Anchorage Democrat, urged Dunleavy to move up the payment distribution before the announcement was made and said the outcome left him "pleased, because I think it's necessary.”

Dunleavy's announcement came as the state prepares to further reopen parts of its economy that were shut down or restricted due to coronavirus concerns. In moving to allow businesses to open to full capacity starting Friday, Dunleavy cited low case numbers and said restrictions had bought time to build up the state's health care capacity.