The Permanent Fund Dividend program is front and center in many political campaigns this fall.

Whether it should have been reduced or should be restored is now a question that divides or unites voters on both sides of the aisle.

But here in Anchorage, how much of a difference does the PFD make to the health of our overall economy?

"It's hard to quantify whether or not the Permanent Fund [dividend] has a significant direct impact from a numerical point of view," Bill Popp of the Anchorage Economic Development Council said to preface his answer on Daybreak Thursday. 

"We looked at data and the closest we can come to is how it affects retail sales," Popp said. "And of course a lot of folks elsewhere in the state come to Anchorage to do their shopping, to do their purchases, to take care of business. So Anchorage does benefit disproportionately compared to the rest of the state when it comes to the spend of the Permanent Fund dividend."

According to Popp -- the Permanent Fund Dividend pay out this year is estimated at around $1.1 billion statewide. Anchorage will get about 40 percent of it. 

Retail spending is one way to quantify economic impacts, jobs are another. 

A study published by AGDC shows retail employment did drop in 2016 when Gov. Bill Walker essentially cut dividend checks in half through a budget veto. But even so, the numbers were still higher than other, low dividend years. 

"When we look at it historically, high dividend, low dividend, there have been years when the dividend has been higher, jobs didn't really go up that much," Popp explained. "We see a big hiring run up in the beginning of summer, which carries on through about the same level through September, October. Then in November and December we see our two highest months of retail hiring."

This is the third year that dividend payments have been reduced from the tradition, formula-based calculation. Governor Walker first reduced PFDs in 2016, then the legislature followed suit last year and this year too.

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