Remember that $1,200 energy rebate, courtesy then-Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, back in 2008? Every man, woman and child in Alaska who qualified for a Permanent Fund Dividend check that year also received a "rebate" to be applied, theoretically, toward skyrocketing energy prices in the 49th state.
Fast-forward four years and the Alaska Legislature is debating a similar energy rebate program. But this one isn't designed to line your pockets. Instead, according to an Associated Press article in Bloomberg Businessweek, lawmakers would provide every qualifying PFD check recipient with "a voucher for 250 gallons of heating oil, an equivalent amount of natural gas, or 1,500 kilowatt-hours of electricity."
The bill, SB 203, was filed this week and is currently under debate in the Alaska Senate. It appears to create a new energy assistance regime of state government. Qualifying Alaskans would receive a voucher that's certified with each recipient's name and identification.
Many Alaskans, however, neither own a home nor have utility bills in their personal names. SB 203 offers those folks -- renters and, presumably, PFD-qualifying children who still live at home -- a little something, too. Those who qualify for a voucher but don't pay directly for heating oil, natural gas, or electricity, can have a check sent to their landlord or else exchange the voucher for a $250 check.
The bill doesn't exactly strike the same populist note as Palin's clean-cut $1,200 check did back in 2008. SB 203 is a bit wonkier and appears to create a labyrinth of state red tape to work through. But Alaskans suffer notoriously high prices for home heating, particularly those living off the state's road system, who sometimes pay twice as much as urban dwellers for energy.