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Acronym error accidentally sends every Alaska resident 6,700 life jackets


Governor Mike Dunleavy’s 2018 campaign promise to deliver a “$6,700 Permanent Fund Dividend” has been thwarted by an administrative error, as apparent confusion over the acronym “PFD” resulted in all Alaskans qualified to receive the 2021 check instead receiving thousands of personal flotation devices.

Recent changes to state treasury operations may be to blame for the costly error. In recent months, a variety of state services have been slated to be outsourced to businesses outside of Alaska. According to a spokesperson for the Alaska Department of Revenue’s Permanent Fund Division, a Florida accounting firm tasked with distributing “PFD Checks” may have confused the acronym “Permanent Fund Dividend” with “Personal Flotation Device.”

“It is clear that an amalgamated allocation was allotted to appropriate asset stakeholders, but asymmetrical inaccuracies equated an a priori annualized error. Our analytical team is working to address an alternative equity distribution,” said Department of Revenue spokesperson Karen Smith.

The total cost for the life jacket distribution is estimated at 400.8 billion dollars, or 326.8 billion dollars in excess of the total value of all holdings of the state investment fund, leaving state finances in a profound state of debt. 

Although the Permanent Fund Division has not yet released a formal plan for resolving the error, policy experts agree that the error was caught too late for a quick fix to be possible. One insider described the scene at the PFD offices as “absolute chaos.”

“There’s simply no way to fix this,” said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “We’ve looked at everything. At this point, pretty much all of us are secretly browsing Craigslist for good deals on used boats.”

While checks won’t be coming any time this year, Alaskans will get the option to choose between three different styles of life jacket. The NRS Odyssey will be available for sea kayakers, while serious fishermen can choose the Mustang Survival Float Coat, and residents of Wasilla automatically receive the Onyx M-16 Inflatable Belt Pack.

A survey was sent via text message to every Alaskan cell phone number earlier this week to collect individual information on style and sizing preferences. State officials emphasized that while the text may appear to be a spam message, the survey link is safe to open and will not result in a stolen identity.

Deliveries of house-sized parcels of life jackets are already reported to be clogging driveways and post offices statewide. As a long line of container ships awaits to offload millions more life jackets at the Port of Anchorage, Alaskans had mixed reactions to the news.

“No trip to Vegas this year, I guess,” said South Anchorage resident Alfred Asken wistfully as he watched dozens of delivery trucks roll through his neighborhood. “Maybe I can use these things to finally insulate the garage.” 

Angela Bobber, director of the youth water safety program Kids Don’t Float, sees a silver lining in the situation. 

“This puts us in a position to ensure that all Alaskans have access to a personal flotation device, and will go a long way toward making the water a safer place for boaters, fisherman, and recreationalists of all kinds. Plus, you’ll have enough of them left over to build a houseboat,” Bobber said. 

For many Alaskans, the missed income could hardly come at a worse time. Some recipients aimed to profit from the situation by listing their excess lifejackets on eBay for out-of-state buyers. 

“This is as close as we’ll get to being able to monetize and export our stupidity,” said Fairbanks resident Isaak Culls. “Might as well sell these things while we can, since our other main export is still hovering around a measly $60 a barrel...”

The Dunleavy administration pivoted to highlight the upside of the situation. “These are high quality life jackets that will go a long way to make Alaskans safer on the water,” said Dunleavy spokesman Jeff Turner.

A press release late today from the governor's office stated that PFD checks next year in 2022 will total at least $8,000 to compensate for the error, adding the missed check from this year to the earlier intended $6,700. The press release emphasized that the timing of the record-sized checks is unrelated to Dunleavy’s likely re-election campaign.


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