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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)

Legislators Look At Session on Dividend

    By BECKY BOHRER
Associated Press
    JUNEAU (AP) — Legislative leaders said today they are committed to paying residents an Alaska Permanent Fund dividend this year, even if the current special session ends without an agreement on the amount.
    Senate Finance Committee co-Chair Bert Stedman said legislators will not duck “our responsibility to come out with a dividend for the public. That’s not going to happen.”
    Just how soon a decision can be reached remains to be seen. The director of the state Permanent Fund Dividend Division, Anne Weske, said officials there will need to request funds for checks from the Alaska Permanent Fund Corp. by early September.
    House Speaker Bryce Edgmon said the expectation is for a future special session on the dividend, calling that “a critical piece that’s missing at this point.” The current special session expires Friday.
    Annual dividends are paid to hundreds of thousands of qualified residents from Alaska Permanent Fund earnings. The fund itself is a sort of nest egg, seeded with oil money and grown through investments. Its total value is about $65 billion. That includes the earnings reserve, valued at $19 billion at the end of April.
    Lawmakers have struggled with an amount for this year’s dividend and with possible changes to the dividend calculation, which is based on an average of fund income over five years.
    Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy has maintained the answer is simple: Pay a full dividend according to the formula and do not change the formula without a vote of the people. Dividends have been capped the last three years amid an ongoing budget deficit.
    Dunleavy has said the Legislature’s work isn’t finished until it approves a full dividend. If lawmakers don’t complete their work, Dunleavy has said he would call them into another special session, his spokesman, Matt Shuckerow, said Tuesday.
    Lawmakers can also call themselves into a special session.
    There are legislators who agree with Dunleavy’s position on the dividend and those who say the formula is unsustainable and at odds with another law seeking to limit what can be withdrawn from fund earnings for dividends and government expenses. Lawmakers last year started using fund earnings, traditionally used to pay dividends, to help pay for government.
    The Legislature has approved creating a working group to provide recommendations on future use of fund earnings in hopes of breaking the logjam. Sen. Bill Wielechowski, an Anchorage Democrat, said he considered it unlikely such a group could get lawmakers to change their minds.
    Stedman, a Sitka Republican and member of the working group, said he hopes the group delves into the history of the fund and dividend program to lay the groundwork for discussions on a potential formula rewrite.
   

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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.

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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

NOTICE FROM THE PUBLISHERS

TO READERS AND ADVERTISERS

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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