Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Energetic dollar stretching — Legislature’s $1,200 resource rebate goes further for some than others



“I can put the money to use, but I’m a little skeptical of it, like where it’s all coming from — where the money is coming from. Since you usually don’t get stuff for free. … Fuel, just for my vehicle has gone up. It’s like frickin’ a hundred bucks to fill my truck, and it’s not even a full tank. I can definitely put it to use. It’s probably going to go to pay my bills.” Mandy Howell. “I think it has its good points and some negative ones. In light of what’s happening across the country with gas prices it’s going to help people. I think it also encourages others Outside to look at Alaska as a giveaway state, and I am not in favor of encouraging people to move up for free money. So it’s two-fold.” Mike Giovanelli, building a house in Soldotna. “I think it’s great. I would like to see others get it. There’s other people who could use the energy rebate for the fuel costs.” Mary Fuhrman, who is building a house on Funny River Road. Fuhrman is not eligible for the rebate, since she spent too much time Outside and didn’t apply for a an Alaska Permanent Fund dividend.


By Jenny Neyman
Redoubt Reporter

When the Young family moved to Kenai from Dillingham in December, they were delighted to expand their criteria in a housing search beyond one main factor — insulation.

In Dillingham, where heat and electricity come from diesel, which is selling for around $7 a gallon, heat retention topped the list of what they looked for in a home.

“The first year we were out there we moved into a house that wasn’t well-insulated,” Lisa Young said. “The temperature dipped below zero for like weeks at a time, like a month and a half, and we paid $1,200 a month for heat. It was more than our rent.”

Eventually, Gordon and Lisa Young and their three kids moved into an apartment building, specifically choosing a middle unit so it would be better heated.

“You do. If you’re looking to rent you think about, ‘How am I going to heat this?’” she said.

The Youngs lived in Dillingham for two and a half years. Gordon worked as a city police officer while Lisa was a police dispatcher. In December, Gordon got a position as an Alaska State Trooper with the E Detachment in Soldotna.

“Especially when we first got here it was really nice because the prices are sooo different,” she said. “The gas prices have gone up so much (since December) it’s almost like living in the Bush because it’s so high, but it’s still a huge, huge difference.”

When they moved to the peninsula, they found heating costs to be so much lower than what they were used to in Dillingham that they were able to consider things like architecture, yard size and neighborhood in their housing search.

“You can choose wherever you want,” Lisa said of the home they picked in the South Forest area of Kenai. “It’s cute, it’s nice, it’s in a good neighborhood. It’s still kind of small, but it has a nice yard. You have a lot more freedom.”

If lower bills mean more freedom, then the Alaska Legislature’s decision Thursday to give resource rebates to every Alaskan eligible for an Alaska Permanent Fund dividend equals $1,200 worth of extra freedom to each recipient — freedom to help pay rising fuel costs, reduce credit card debt, take a vacation or buy a new flat-screen TV. The rebates will be added to the dividend payments distributed this fall.

The Youngs have found their $1,200 each buys them more freedom on the central Kenai Peninsula than they would have gotten with it in Dillingham, since prices are comparatively cheap here.

Their heating bill went from $500 a month in their Dillingham apartment to $80 in their Kenai house in December, Lisa said. A gallon of heating fuel when they left Dillingham was $3.80, but has since risen to $7. A gallon of milk today also would set them back about $7. A gallon of gas was selling for $4.96 a gallon when they left.

“The cost of living out there was really high,” Lisa said. “It was getting hard to make ends meet that way. We come out here and gas prices soared considerably since December … but it’s really soaring for them.”

In Kenai, Lisa is able to work part time starting a portrait photography business. That wasn’t possible in Dillingham.

“You kind of have to work,” she said. “You do have to make money. There are people out there who are stuck there because they can’t make enough to get out.”

The rebates will be a boost to people in all parts of the state, all income brackets and all kinds of living situations.

Matthew, a firefighter, and Angeline Quiner, of Nikiski, are putting the money toward paying off debt, Angeline said.

“Oh, of course we’re excited about it. I think everybody is,” she said.

With five kids, rising fuel costs and an addition being built onto their house, the money comes at a good time.

“I think it’ll be helpful for us for sure,” she said.

The family is operating differently these days to conserve fuel and money.

“With food prices and also obviously with fuel, we just have to budget it in differently. We’re going into town like a lot less. We used to run back and forth on a whim. Now we think about it,” she said.

Quiner said she didn’t agree with an earlier proposal to limit the rebates to Alaska adults.
“We use a lot more energy every day because we have five kids home all day and I’m always doing laundry. It’s getting harder to make those bills,” she said.