Monday, June 17, 2013
$7 Million Mistake by the PFD Office
An oversight at the Permanent Fund Dividend Office is causing a slew of problems for 5,500 Alaskans. Due to a processing error, some Alaskans' PFD checks were not garnished.
Amy Carter sat in her living room, listening to the busy signal music on her iPhone as she waited to speak with a representative from the Permanent Fund Division office.
A week after Carter, her husband and thousands of other Alaskans received a permanent fund dividend, the Department of Revenue announced it had made a mistake: Instead of garnishing the PFD’s of nearly 5,500 residents who owed money to the state, it had distributed them in the full amount.
After discovering the error Monday, the department tried to retrieve the money, canceling paper checks and reversing direct deposits. Many recipients were faced with negative account balances when the department unexpectedly withdrew nearly $1,200 from their accounts, but Carter faced a different problem.
Like nearly 3,600 other Alaskans, her husband’s direct deposit had been reversed when the department claimed his dividend was due to be garnished. Unlike others, state records indicated he was not.
The money was then redeposited into their joint account, and Carter’s bank statement reveals the progression of deposits and withdrawals. It shows something else, too.
When the money was taken from their account, it incurred a $25 bank fee. While the entire dividend was returned within hours, the bank fee remained.
“I’m going to have nightmares of this song,” said Carter, listening to the looping elevator music playing through her phone.
More than an hour after she called the Permanent Fund Division office to sort out the problem, she’s still on hold.
When a representative finally picked up the phone, they told her they couldn’t help. Because it was her husband’s dividend, she would need a court order or power of attorney to discuss the case.
Since the overdraft fee was applied to their joint account, she asked if the office would pay the $25 charge.
“I don’t know what you’re referring to,” the representative replied.
Frustrated, she asked to speak with a supervisor.
“One minute,” said the representative on the other end of the line.
Ten minutes later, the hold music was still playing, and when a manager came to phone several minutes after that, they told Carter they didn’t know what to do.
Department of Revenue officials said they’re working with businesses and Alaskans to correct the error, but for Carter there were no answers, only a $25 bank fee.