Today Governor Mike Dunleavy introduced SB 85, updating eligibility requirements for the Permanent Fund Dividend and modernizing the way the Department of Revenue can issue a notice of levy and conduct background checks on Department employees.
The bill allows merchant mariners attending a qualified vocational program to qualify for an allowable absence from the state for purposes of PFD eligibility. Under Alaska’s current system, Alaskans serving as a merchant mariner are eligible for an allowed absence when serving aboard a vessel, but Alaskans training to be a merchant mariner are not provided an allowed absence. This bill remedies that disparity so that Alaskans training to be merchant mariners are treated the same as other students.
The bill also clarifies the meaning of “education on a full-time basis.” Due to variability in educational schedules, certain students lose dividend eligibility due to breaks in the academic year. SB 85 provides for a specific definition for “education on a full-time basis” that includes academic year breaks, excluding summer break, so that students are not penalized based on vagaries in academic schedules.
SB 85 also allows the DOR’s Permanent Fund Division to use electronic notice of levy for individuals who are subject to a court order or writ for the collection of a debt. Currently, if another individual attempts to place a levy on a dividend payment, DOR is required to contact the levied individual via the postal system. Allowing consent to receive electronic notice of levy will assist Alaskans in receiving vital information in the manner of their choosing.
The legislation also provides statutory authority for DOR to collect fingerprints for the purpose of conducting background checks on Department employees. This will strengthen the security of Alaskan’s personal information by authorizing the Department to perform national criminal history checks on employees that have access to the banking and vital records of nearly every citizen in Alaska. By allowing the Department to obtain full background checks, Alaska will have taken every measure to provide the most secure system possible.