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Alaskans to get $1,174 dividend from oil fund

By Yereth Rosen

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (Reuters) - Nearly all Alaskans will receive $1,174 this year from the state as part of its annual dividend payout from Alaska's oil wealth fund, Governor Sean Parnell said on Tuesday.

The oil wealth fund, established in 1976, is worth $37.9 billion and has paid dividends since 1982, with the annual dividend announcement eagerly awaited by residents.

"This is truly one of those great duties of the Alaska governor and unique, a duty that 49 other governors likely wish they had," Parnell said, before opening an envelope to reveal this year's dividend at an Anchorage news conference.

But Parnell cautioned that future dividends were likely to be smaller, partly because the dividends -- based on a five-year average of investment earnings -- reflected rocky times for stock markets, he said.

It is also because Alaska's oil production is declining steadily, from a peak of 2.1 million barrels a day in 1988 to less than a third of that currently.

"There will be fewer and less royalties going into the Permanent Fund unless we turn that around," Parnell said.

With children as well as adults receiving the dividends, the annual payout is considered a significant portion of most Alaska families' income. About 670,000 people will receive this year's dividend, state officials said.

The biggest dividend was paid in 2008, when Alaskans received $2,069 apiece, reflective of past stock market gains at the time. Last year's dividend was $1,281.

To qualify for the dividend, Alaskans must have lived in the state for a year or been born in the past year. Excessive absences from the state, including long winter vacations, can disqualify individuals from receiving dividends, as can convictions for past dividend fraud.

In all, $760.2 million will be distributed in dividends this year, divided among nearly 95 percent of the state's 710,000 residents.

(Editing by Dan Whitcomb and Cynthia Johnston)

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