FAREWELLS – TOP: Staff and faculty of Keet Gooshi Heen Elementary School wave to students and families as they drive by in the school parking lot this morning during a "reverse parade." Today was the final day of school in the district. ABOVE: Also today, Blatchley Middle School held a Rites of Passage ceremony in the parking lot. Principal Ben White hands out certificates to eighth-graders who will be attending high school in the fall. (Sentinel Photo by James Poulson)

Senate Fails to Save Full Dividend Bill

Associated Press
    JUNEAU (AP) — The Alaska Senate failed today to revive a bill that would pay residents a full dividend of about $3,000 from the state’s oil-wealth fund this year, a sign of the struggle lawmakers are having in reaching agreement on one of the special session’s last issues.
    Legislative leaders have made clear their intentions to pay an Alaska Permanent Fund dividend this year. What that amount ultimately is remains to be seen, though Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy has been firm in calling for a full payout.
    Senators deadlocked 10-10 Monday on a vote to rescind their action last week, when they voted down the full payout.
    Senate Finance Committee Co-chair Bert Stedman said one way to move forward would be to follow through on a resolution passed by the House that calls for a House-Senate working group that would make recommendations on the future use of Alaska Permanent Fund earnings.
    “It’s unlikely that we’re going to have a dividend concluded by Friday. Very, very, very, very unlikely,” the Sitka Republican said. Special sessions can last 30 days, and that limit would be hit Friday.

Senate Finance Committee Co-chair Bert Stedman, a Sitka Republican, and Sen. Donny Olson, a Democrat from Golovin, sign the conference committee budget report on Saturday in the Senate Finance Committee room of the Capitol. The conference committee, composed of House and Senate negotiators, reached final agreement on a compromise budget Saturday, that the House passed Sunday and the Senate was expected to vote on today. The budget proposal also included transferring more than $10 million from Alaska Permanent Fund earnings to the funds’ principal. Stedman said, “I am very happy. This was intended to protect the money and the Alaska Permanent Fund for future Alaskans.” (Sentinel Photo by Klas Stolpe)

    The permanent fund is a nest-egg of sorts, seeded with oil money and grown over time through investments. Its overall value, at the end of April, was $65 billion. That includes the earnings reserve, which was valued at $19 billion. Fund earnings traditionally have been used to pay the annual dividend to qualified residents.
    Dunleavy has said lawmakers should follow a longstanding formula and pay a full dividend; that was one of his top campaign pledges last year. He also has said the formula should not be changed without a vote of the people.
    Some legislators agree with Dunleavy’s position. There also are legislators who argue the formula is unsustainable and at odds with a law passed last year that seeks to limit what can be spent from fund earnings for dividends and government. That limit for the upcoming fiscal year is $2.9 billion. A full dividend would cost an estimated $1.9 billion.
    Dividends have been capped the last three years amid a budget deficit that has persisted amid low to middling oil prices. The size of checks distributed last year was $1,600, an amount settled on because it was what could pass the House at that time.
    The state, which had long relied on oil revenues to help pay for expenses, has no personal income or statewide sales tax and no such taxes have been discussed this year.
    Last week, the full dividend payout fell one vote short of passage in the Senate, with a prominent supporter, Republican Sen. Mike Shower, absent.
    All senators were present Monday. Democratic Sen. Elvi Gray-Jackson of Anchorage, who last week voted for the bill to pay a full dividend, was among those who voted against bringing the issue back up.
    Stedman said he thinks efforts will be made over the next few months to try to reach agreement on restructuring the formula. “But if that can’t be accomplished, we’re going to at least decide a dividend amount this year,” he said.



Alaska COVID-19
At a Glance

(updated 5-22-20)

By Sentinel Staff

The state Department of Health and Social Services has posted the following update on the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Alaska as of 11:00 a.m. Friday.

New cases as of Thursday: 2

Total statewide – 404

The state says the cumulative number of cases hospitalized is 44, and the cumulative number of deaths is 10.

To visit the Alaska DHSS Corona Response dashboard website click here.



Welcome to the Sitka Sentinel's web page. In order to make the Sentinel's news more easily available during the COVID-19 pandemic, we have taken down the paywall to access articles on this page. Just click on an article headline to read the story. 

March 23, 2020



For the duration of the COVID-19 disaster emergency declared by federal, state and local authorities, the Sentinel is taking additional measures to reduce virus exposure to its employees and contractors as well as to the public, while continuing to publish a daily news report for Sitka.

To the extent possible, Sentinel news and sales staff will be working from home. For the protection of our carriers, home delivery of the newspaper will be stopped effective Tuesday, March 24.

The Sentinel will continue to publish on its website sitkasentinel.com. Access to the website will be free to all users. The Sentinel will also produce a print edition Monday through Friday. It will be available to all readers without charge, at locations throughout town.

Initially, these locations are those where the Sentinel's newspaper vending machines are already in place. The coin mechanisms will be disabled or the doors removed to permit easy access. The Sentinel will work with the stores where the paper is usually sold, to designate a place inside or outside the store where the free edition can be made available.  

Home delivery subscriptions are on hold, and after the end of the disaster emergency, subscriptions will be extended at no charge for the number of days that there was no home delivery.

The Sentinel will make its print edition available to the public as early in the day as possible. with all personnel taking precautions to prevent spread of the virus.

The Sentinel is calling upon its customers to observe the COVID-19 emergency precautions already in place, particularly in maintaining a six-foot social distance from others at newspaper distribution sites.

Following is the statement issued by the Sentinel on March 16, stating the Sentinel's emergency procedures, which remain in effect.

The Sentinel office at 112 Barracks Street is closed to the public. We encourage people to use the phone, email or the U.S. Postal Service as much as possible.There is a slot in the front door of the office for ads, news items and payment checks. Emails may be sent to  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and the phone number is (907) 747-3219.                                                                          

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